Secular Akalis not to support Sikh PM on nuke deal

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{image-manmohan singh_15072008.jpg}Chandigarh, Jul 15: Acknowledging that he respected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday, July 15, categorically stated that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) would vote against the UPA-government led by the Congress on the No Confidence Motion in Parliament on July 22.

''Dr Singh is an able and efficient person, but he is in a party which has never been sympathetic towards the interests of Punjab,'' Mr Badal said while answering questions at a Meet the Press programme at the Chandigarh Press Club here. ''The Vote of Confidence is a three letter word and the SAD would vote with the NDA to dislodge the UPA government,'' he said while pointing out that the nuclear deal was an issue but so were inflation and unemployment. The battle is not of personel relationships but it was of political relations, he added.

Coming to the question of Dr Singh being a Sikh, the Chief Minister acknowledged that his party always kept the interests of the community uppermost on its agenda. ''However SAD is a secular party and will not support Dr Singh just because he is a Sikh'', he added while pointing out that the Akal Takht Jathedar had issued no such statement asking the Akalis to support the Prime Minister.

''The Guru's have always taught us the concept of 'Sarbat da Bhala' (welfare of mankind),'' he quipped. The Chief Minister also took the opportunity to point out that the support extended to the late Giani Zail Singh in the Presidential election in the 1980s was constitutional in nature while the issue now was political in nature.

Asked whether his party would vote in favour of the UPA if an appeal was made to the Akalis by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr Badal was quick to reply, '' Our relationship with 10-Janpath is like fire and water''. There can be no 'Saude Baazi' (give and take) as far the confidence vote is concerened, he added.

Regarding the contradictory statements of Akali leaders on the nuke deal, Mr Badal made it clear that there was no question of supporting the Congress which is the main constituent of the UPA. No one can forget the harm that the Congress has done to Punjab, he claimed. Asked whether there was any chance of the Akalis abstaining from the voting in Parliament, the Akali leader was quick to reply, ''Abstaining means running away from the battlefield''. He also did not think it necessary to issue a whip as all Akali MPs would abide by the party decision to be taken at a meeting to be held this evening.

Coming to the issue of the nuclear deal, Mr Badal said that all the main political parties should have been taken into confidence before going ahead with this deal. After all there must be something wrong in the deal as the Left parties withdrew support on this issue, he pointed out while refraining from giving his personel opinion on whether nuclear energy could help Punjab tide over its power crisis.


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