Punjab lawmaker urges Akalis to save PM – Sikh’s ‘pride’


Chandigarh : A Sikh lawmaker from the Congress party Monday urged Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and other ruling Akali Dal leaders to help the country’s first Sikh prime minister – Manmohan Singh – during the July 22 vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha over the India-US nuclear deal.

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In an impassioned appeal to Badal and others, Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira reminded the Akali leadership of their stance in the early 1980s when they kept their political affiliations aside to vote for the Congress nominee for the president’s post, Giani Zail Singh, a Sikh.

“I urge (Shri) Badal to consider the pride of the Sikhs which is at stake, dislodging an able Sikh prime minister with impeccable integrity and unblemished character would belie all your claims to be the sole representative party of the Sikhs across the globe. In the past, you have been supporting I.K Gujral unrelentlessly just because he was a Punjabi, cutting across party lines,” Khaira wrote to Badal.

“Even during the election to the office of President of India, the Akali Dal has a record of voting in favour of Giani Zail Singh, who was a Congress nominee, primarily with the intention that in his elevation as President of India, the honour and respect of Sikhs would increase manifold across the world – although the Akalis then were also opposed to the Congress politically,” he pointed out.

Khaira urged Badal to review his political stance on the nuclear deal issue and not to go on the issue with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the alliance partner of the Akalis in Punjab. The legislator reminded Badal that he had said in October last year that the deal was a positive step and especially good for Punjab.

The Akalis have eight MPs in the Lok Sabha while the BJP has three from Punjab.

Khaira pointed out that the Akalis should see how the Shiv Sena, another known partner of the BJP, had voted for Congress nominee Pratibha Patil for the president’s post since she was a ‘Maharashtrian’.

“Dr Manmohan Singh commands respect of the world leadership due to his qualities of pragmatic approach on global issues, his simplicity and honesty. Therefore, defeating a Sikh prime minister on the floor of the house at this juncture for narrow, parochial approach would send an extremely wrong signal for the entire Sikh community, one of being non-progressive and not amenable to reason,” Khaira said.

The legislator urged Akali leaders to vote conscientiously on this issue if Badal failed to see reason and did not support the Sikh prime minister.

The prime minister, besides being a Sikh, has strong Punjab connections. His family settled in Punjab’s Amritsar city after partition in August 1947 where he did his schooling and college.