No easy entry for Manpreet, says Punjab Congress chief

Monday, December 6, 2010

CHANDIGARH - Punjab’s sacked finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal would have to live up to the expectations of lakhs of party workers before he could be allowed to join the Congress, the party’s state unit head said Monday.

“I am not against anyone joining the Congress party. Anybody who follows the party’s ideologies is welcome. But in Manpreet’s case, I cannot decide anything on my own. It all depends upon my party workers, who are fighting against the Badals for the last 30 years,” Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh told reporters here.

Manpreet, a nephew of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, was expelled from Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal Oct 20 after his statements on doing away with subsidies and freebies, like free power to farmers, and Punjab’s finances and debt write-offs offered by the centre brought him in confrontation with the party’s policies and leadership.

“I cannot go alone as I always believe in taking my people along. Therefore, decision of my party workers will always come first. If the party high command in Delhi asks for my opinion, then again I would express the same,” he said.

Amarinder Singh, a former chief minister himself, said there were scores of police cases regarding Manpreet’s supporters attacking Congress workers across Punjab.

Manpreet, 48, who is known for keeping a low profile, is an honours graduate from Delhi’s St Stephen’s college and studied law from London.

He was dropped from the ministry owing to his statements regarding Punjab’s Rs.700 billion (Rs.70,000 crore) debt, and his demand that the party do away with subsidies and freebies to take the state out of a debt trap.

Last month, he launched a campaign called ‘Jago Punjab Yatra’ to highlight the misdeeds of the Akali government.

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