Is Punjab headed to a violent election?
Live Punjab News Service
Chandigarh -- As the political climate in Punjab heats up along with the day temperature, the electoral scene in the state up to the Feb 13 assembly election is showing signs of getting violent.
The killing of a Shiromani Akali Dal worker by Congress activists at Beas town near Amritsar Monday has indicated that the ruling party and the main opposition Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance are unlikely to give away even an inch in the run up to the polls.
Congress legislator from Beas Jasbir Singh Dimpa, his two brothers - one a senior Punjab police official and another a wealthy transporter - have been named along with six others for the death of the Akali worker.
Congress activists allegedly fired at Akali workers as the latter were taking out a procession in front of the Congress election office in Beas town - known more for being the headquarter of the popular Radha Soami sect.
Just hours before, Congress and Akali-BJP leaders and supporters came close to a clash Sunday evening during a live TV debate between cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla.
Both leaders are in a bitter contest for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by-election.
The hour-long debate was over in 10 minutes when Singla called Sidhu a murderer for causing death of a man in a road rage case in Patiala town in December 1988.
Sidhu was last month convicted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and handed a three-year prison sentence. The Supreme Court has stayed the ruling temporarily.
Sidhu retaliated by saying that Singla had gobbled up billions in bribe and was an agent of corporate giant Reliance.
As both leaders moved menacingly towards each other, it was a free for all for the mostly drunken supporters of both sides as they took boarded the stage, which collapsed.
"This intolerant behaviour of our leaders on a live show is unprecedented in Indian democracy," debate host Ajay Sharma later said.
His pleas to both leaders to cool off and ask their supporters to get off the stage failed to yield any results.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is not unduly worried about the violence fears.
"I will not allow anyone, especially the Akalis, to take law and order in their hands. It will be a peaceful election," Amarinder Singh asserted Monday even as he seemed to suggest that Akali leaders were bent upon creating violence.
The Akali leadership on the other hand blames Amarinder Singh for the climate of unrest.
Akali Dal president and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has on more than one occasion said there was a definite conspiracy to eliminate him, his son Sukhbir Badal and other Akali leaders to stop them from coming to power.
Badal's doubts are not unfounded.
Last month, the Punjab Police found a huge quantity of RDX near Jalandhar that was being brought by Sikh terrorists for a major pre-election strike.
"The people arrested have close affiliations with top Congress leaders. Who does not know about it?" Badal asked.
Amarinder Singh dismisses Badal's charge as "his imagination".
"I am ready to provide two-three times security to the Badals if they feel so unsafe. A genuine threat is OK but I cannot help cowardice," the chief minister said.