Dera Baba Nanak (Punjab): Just three hours ahead of the function to lay the foundation stone of a road which will link to the religiously significant Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor, Punjab cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Monday appeared upset.
Making last minute preparations before Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh conduct the ceremony, Randhawa was seen speaking and gesturing angrily to officers making while they made arrangements for the high-profile function..
The Congress legislator from Dera Baba Nanak appeared visibly disturbed and was seen shouting at officers while moving on the main stage for the event on Monday.
The minister later told a TV channel: "I will not boycott the function but I will boycott the foundation stone itself. I cannot see my name and those of my ministerial colleagues along with former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal's name.
"I will put a tape on my name. This (foundation stone) is unacceptable," an upset Randhawa said.
"The Badals have no contribution in getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared. They ruled Punjab from 1997 to 2002 and again for 10 years (2007-2017).
"Did they come here to offer prayers while in power? They are only trying to take credit (for the Kartarpur corridor) just because they (Shiromani Akali Dal) have an alliance with the BJP," the minister said.
Randhawa blamed the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) officers for the foundation stone controversy. He said that he had serious objections to the foundation stone carrying the names of the Badals.
He said that the foundation stone, made by NHAI officials, was installed at 2 a.m. (on Monday).
"The sanctity of the function should have been kept. The foundation stone should have carried only the names of the Vice President and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh," Randhawa said.
The minister is also upset that the Congress leadership in Punjab, including him (as the local minister and legislator), Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar (who is the Punjab Congress president) and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, were being deliberately ignored for the function while all attention was being given to the Badal family, including Union Minister Harsimrat Badal.
Randhawa's outburst came even as the SAD-BJP and Congress leaders in Punjab were in the midst of a major controversy in claiming credit for getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared by the governments of India and Pakistan.
The NDA government at the Centre, of which the SAD is a part, approved the project in Punjab linked to the Kartarpur corridor on November 22.
The date of the foundation stone was hurriedly decided for November 26 to ensure that it was done before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the actual Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan on November 28 (Wednesday).
The Congress government in Punjab was going to hold its own function here this week but Chief Minister Amarinder Singh decided to be part of the central government function itself.
The SAD-BJP combine leadership has also been trying hard to take the credit away from state cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who, in August went to Pakistan for the swearing-in of his cricketing friend Imran Khan and was the first to announce that the Pakistan government was keen to open the Kartarpur corridor for devotees from India.
The Akali Dal leadership, including Harsimrat Badal, branded Sidhu as a 'traitor' for hugging Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in function.
They questioned his statements regarding Pakistan's move on the Kartarpur corridor.
Harsimrat Badal is now herself headed to Pakistan as the central government's representative for the foundation stone ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor on Wednesday. Sidhu is also going for the same event.
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around two to three kilometre from the India-Pakistan international border and is situated right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in Indian's Punjab's Gurdaspur district, that Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), spent 18 years of his life till he died in 1539.
The gurdwara, which fell in Pakistan territory following the partition of India in August 1947, has big significance in Sikh religion and history.
For the past over 71 years, even since partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the international border while seeking the gurdwara at a distance.