By Jaideep Sarin,
Chandigarh, March 10 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's record-setting fourth tenure as head of the government here has not begun on a happy note. Embarrassing situations have followed one after another in quick succession, pushing the chief minister on the back foot.
The latest one came Friday evening in the form of a Ropar court order framing charges of corruption against Badal, his wife Surinder Kaur, MP son Sukhbir Badal and seven other associates.
Badal and his family are facing allegations of owning assets worth Rs.780 million (Rs.78 crore), beyond their known sources of income. The Punjab vigilance department under the previous Congress government investigated the allegations into their disproportionate assets and income.
The other embarrassments Badal has faced in just in one week in office include a spat within his family and with alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over allocation of portfolios.
There was also the chaos at his swearing in ceremony that saw the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) ground at Mohali in disarray besides his indecision in bureaucratic reshuffling for key posts.
As chief minister, Badal also heads the home ministry and the vigilance department, which is seeking his prosecution. Although developments in the same court over the last week clearly indicated that the new government was bent on bailing out Badal in the case, the court order has spelt trouble for him.
Already there is talk in Punjab's legal and political circles that the case be transferred out of Punjab because Badal would be in a position to influence the case proceedings in the state.
The prosecution, which was forcing the case against Badal till the Congress was in power, initiated moves last week to delay the court process in this case. The instructions, clearly, were from the state's new masters.
Following the latest court order, Badal stood his ground saying that he had full faith in the judiciary. On the issue of resigning on moral grounds following framing of charges of corruption against him and his family members, Badal has maintained that framing charges did not mean conviction and he need not resign.
Badal will now face another embarrassing moment Tuesday (March 13) when he has to appear before the court with his wife and son to be served the chargesheet under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Members of Badal's family are said to have squabbled over key portfolios, especially excise and taxation and finance, last week resulting in ministers in his government not getting their portfolios for five days after being inducted. This happened when the BJP demanded and got its choice ministries.
The issue of the post of deputy chief minister the rejuvenated BJP demanded last week remains unresolved, with the Akali Dal and BJP leaders maintaining a studied silence.
Badal started his first day in office with an embarrassing public apology following the mayhem at the PCA stadium, 10 km from here, where he and his 17 ministers were sworn-in on March 2.
Thousands of Akali Dal-BJP supporters lay siege to the lush green outfield of one of the best cricket grounds in the world. Iron poles and hundreds of chairs meant to accommodate Badal's supporters were used to mutilate the ground.