Ludhiana: On Wednesday (November 1), Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant C Mann called for an ‘open debate’ on the Sutlej-Jamuna link canal and other issues in Punjab. A kind of challenge was thrown at the Congress, BJP, and Shiromani Akali Dal. Dr. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The debate was to be held at the Manmohan Singh Auditorium titled ‘May Punjab Balda Ha’. But none of the top leaders of opposition parties in Punjab responded to the call of Chief Minister Mane. Bhagwant Mann is seen sitting alone on the stage.
Bhagwant Mann criticizes previous state governments in ‘one-man show’ Pointing to Sukhbir Singh Badal’s empty chair, the Punjab Chief Minister said, “Whatever he says today, forget it the next day. I invited him because he is the president of his party. Otherwise in such debates, those who do not know what to say, are not invited. He does not know whether he is in Ghanaur, Faridkot, or Patiala.” About the Congress rule in Punjab, Mann said, “The Congress government ate the transport system of the state. The maximum toll plaza was imposed during Captain Amarinder’s first term.” The chief minister also blamed the problem of the Sutlej-Jamuna connecting canal on Congress-SAD.
Meanwhile, heavy police force has been deployed across the city amid concerns that the law and order situation could deteriorate. The city can almost be said to have become a fortress. Farmers, teachers, and other common people, who reached the gates of Punjab Agricultural University in the morning to participate in the debate, were denied entry. They clashed with the police in many places over this. Due to this most of them were arrested. In fact, confusion has been created by the Punjab government about whether common people can participate in this debate. Bhagwant Mann Sarkar first wanted to include common people in the event. Later, that decision was changed to say that the general public and the media would not be allowed to enter the event.
However, on Tuesday, Krantikari Kisan Union leaders claimed to have received calls from police officials inviting them to attend the debate. They said that a group of 50 farmers will attend the meeting today. On this day, a group of farmers of Krantikari Kisan Union reached the spot. But, Punjab police arrested them before the ceremony started. Unemployed youth, health workers, and BED and Tate Pass protesters also came to make their point. Everyone was picked up in a police bus. Even, the representatives of the anti-narcotics forum of Punjab were arrested.
The Punjab Chief Minister issued this challenge to opposition leaders on October 8, after opposition parties turned against his government over the Sutlej-Jamuna link canal issue. He invited state BJP chief Sunil Zakhar, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Waring state assembly opposition leader Pratap Singh Bajwa, and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. He called for open debate on issues related to the development of the state like law and order, nepotism, river water sharing, agriculture, and youth welfare. However, the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal had earlier announced that they would boycott the event.