Bomb blast, sacrilege cases add twist to Punjab polls

The recent bomb blast in Ludhiana, the drug case against senior Akali leader Majithia and the sacrilege incidents have caused an abrupt bend in the course of the ensuing assembly polls in Punjab which till recently seemed to be dominated by populist announcements, reports Rajesh Moudgil

The recent bomb blast in the Ludhiana court complex which killed one and injured five persons, the case against senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Bikram Singh Majithia in the infamous Bhola drug case, and the incidents of sacrilege attempts appear to be the major factors having ample potential to impact the ensuing assembly polls in Punjab.

Till recently, the assembly elections which are just about two months away, appeared to be dominated by promises of various freebies by ruling Congress chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and the populist announcements by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal and the SAD, BJP leaders. The AAP is the principal opposition party in Punjab.

While the ruling Congress government has sounded high alert in the state after the bomb blast, it has not ruled out a terror link behind it aimed at vitiating the communal harmony ahead of the assembly polls. Notably, the blast comes close on the heels of recent incidents of alleged sacrilege attempts.

The blast inside the court complex exposed a major security lapse as the explosives had been smuggled in despite security at district courts which are built in close proximity of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) office in the heart of Ludhiana city.

Significantly enough, this incident also reminds one of the January 31, 2017 bomb blast which took place at Maur Mandi in Bathinda district ahead of polls and which killed seven persons including three children, and changed the narrative of the election, then.

The Ludhiana incident has thus also evoked sharp reactions from all the political majors.

Condemning the incident, chief minister Channi held that it was an act of anti-national forces which were trying to disturb the peace in the state ahead of the assembly elections. First, there was a sacrilege incident at the Golden Temple in which they failed and now now this blast, he said and added that his government would not spare the culprits.

Former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh who sought the state police to investigate the incident thoroughly, had also pointedly expressed concerns a few days ago about the threat to the state from Pakistan-backed terror forces and also sought from the Centre 25 companies of Central armed police forces and the anti-drone gadgets for the Border Security Force (BSF) to check such threats.

Reacting to the bomb blast incident, Kejriwal tweeted: “First sacrilege, now blast. Some people want to destroy the peace in Punjab but we will not allow such plans to succeed. We should stand together’’.

The SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal also condemned the incident, while the state BJP president Ashwani Sharma said that the incident had once again exposed Congress government’s total failure to ensure safety and security of the people of Punjab.

Majithia booked in drug case

In yet another major development having the potential to impact the ensuing assembly polls in Punjab, senior Akali leader Majithia was booked a few days ago in an eight-year-old drug case. A three-time MLA and a former minister in the erstwhile SAD-BJP government, Majithia is the brother of former cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is married to the SAD leader and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Conspicuously enough, the news was broken through Twitter by none other than the Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, an arch-rival of Majithia, in which he said that an FIR against the “main culprits” of the drug trade on basis of February 2018 special task force report had been registered. It is also pertinent to mention here that Sidhu also had bitter differences with Capt Amarinder Singh for the latter’s alleged soft stand against the accused in the drug case.

Vendetta politics, rues SAD

The SAD reacted sharply to the registration of a case against Majithia. The SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal said that the government always has to face the result of vendetta politics and that his opponents had registered hundreds of cases against him, but it did not bother him. He said that during his tenure as the chief minister, though, no Congressman had any problem. The government is just to serve the public and not to indulge in vendetta politics, the SAD supremo said and added that SAD would fight against this move of the state government.

Other senior SAD leaders, namely, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, Maheshinder Singh Grewal, and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema also reacted to the said case and said that Punjab wants peace and communal harmony and instead of ensuring this and exposing the conspirators behind the ghastly cases of sacrilege, the Congress government had chosen to file a fabricated case against Bikram Singh Majithia after throwing law and justice to the winds.

Pointing out that the entire report of the STF headed by Harpreet Sidhu had been reproduced in the FIR against Majithia, Grewal sought to know from the Congress government as to how it had reproduced a report which is lying in a sealed envelope in the high court.

However, the state AAP leaders termed the registration of the case against Majithia as “an election stunt’’ of the Channi government. The party Punjab co-in-charge Raghav Chadha alleged in a statement that the AAP had already said that the deal between Channi and Sukhbir Badal had been struck that the Channi government would register a case against Majithia on very weak grounds for electoral gains and would do the drama of arrest.

Govt alert on sacrilege cases

The recent two back-to-back cases of sacrilege bid – in both of which the accused were killed by devotees’ crowd on the spot – have also added a new bend to the electioneering in poll-bound Punjab besides underlining the immediate need to have fail-safe security measures at all the religious places.

While a man was beaten to death over an alleged attempt to commit sacrilege at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, another man was killed by an angry mob in a Kapurthala gurdwara in the past two days.

Shocked by the incidents, the state government has issued directions to police to enhance round-the-clock security arrangements around all the gurdwaras, temples, mosques, churches, and other religious places. Directions have also been given to have functional CCTV cameras in the complexes where Guru Granth Sahib is placed beside other religious scriptures at all the religious places.