Mourning for Gujral lost in pomp and show of Kabaddi event


Chandigarh : Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s presence at the glittering start to the third World Kabaddi Cup Saturday, despite a seven-day state mourning and cancellation of all his engagements till Dec 6, drew flak from the opposition Congress.

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The Worlrd Cup Kabaddi opening ceremony, an event of the Punjab government, went ahead with full pomp and show Saturday evening at Bathinda. From performances of film stars Akshay Kumar and Asin to several others, and singers and dance troupes from Mumbai, the show was held with full fanfare.

Senior Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira said it was “saddening to see the extravagant pomp and show displayed” at the opening event.

“As we are aware, I.K.Gujral, ex-prime minister of India, had died on Nov 30. The government of India had declared a seven-day mourning to express grief over his death. Unfortunately, Badal, a seasoned, veteran politician and long-time friend of Gujral, chose to inaugurate the Kabbadi Cup at Bathinda amidst jubilation, fireworks and dancing by Bollywood stars, including Akshay Kumar,” Khaira said.

“By doing so, the Badal duo (Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal) has not only humiliated and undermined the contribution of Gujral towards India but have also rubbed salt on the wounds of party colleague Naresh Gujral, who also happens to be an Akali Rajya Sabha member,” he added.

Khaira said in view of the mourning, the opening ceremony “should also have been either postponed or kept a low-key affair, as a mark of respect to the departed soul”.

Khaira alleged that Akshay Kumar and Asin were there to promote their forthcoming film – “Khiladi 786” – and charged the state government crores of rupees for their appearance.

“The government spent Rs.15.56 crore last year, of which Rs.5.67 crore was spent on cultural programmes alone. Tax-payers’ money cannot be squandered for such flamboyant actors who were actually promoting one of their forthcoming commercial films,” he asserted.

As the then prime minister, I.K. Gujral had waived off Rs.8,500 crore term loan accumulated by Punjab from the days of militancy in the state.

The chief minister’s office Saturday said that Badal had cancelled all his engagements till Dec 6 in view of the state mourning following Gujral’s death.

Badal had described Gujral’s death as a “personal loss”, saying that he had lost a “long-time friend”.

vGujral was cremated in New Delhi Saturday, just hours before the World Cup Kabaddi opening ceremony.

A total of 23 teams from various countries are participating in the 15-day event which has a prize money of over Rs.6 crore.