Kartarpur corridor: After a war over credit, now begins political blame game over work delay

Navjeevan Gopal
Putting the ball in Centre's court for the delay, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that Centre was yet to sanction funds for the acquisition of the land for the project.

After a credit war over the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, there is now a political slugfest in Punjab over the alleged delay in starting work on the project. A blame game has ensued between the Congress government in Punjab and opposition Shiromani Akali Dal over the "delay" in the project, which is targeted to be complete before the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev in November this year. Incidentally, it is in the window period of the proposed completion time that the upcoming Lok Sabha polls would be held.

The leadership of the newly-formed Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali), a party formed by three breakaway Taksali Akali leaders, is also questioning the alleged delay, warning both Congerss and SAD-BJP alliance of a "heavy price" in the elections. Putting the ball in Centre's court for the delay, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that Centre was yet to sanction funds for the acquisition of the land for the project.

Reacting to Amarinder's remarks, Union Cabinet Minister and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal issued a statement on Tuesday telling CM that "instead of politicising such a sensitive issue why don't you start land acquisition and then requisition the Centre for funds. Surely you know how governments function?".

But Congress leader and Cabinet minister in Punjab, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Wednesday told The Indian Express, "Punjab government has no role. We have no role. NHAI has to acquire the land. As per the notification by the Centre, they have to do everything." Randhawa represents Dera Baba Nanak as legislator. The stretch of the proposed corridor on Indian side will start from a place in his constituency.

On facilitating the land acquisition once the exact route was finalised, Randhawa said, "We will do it in a day. The land falling in two villages is likely to be acquired and we would deploy five patwaris to do the needful."

Asked about political ramifications due to the delay, Randhawa added that SAD-BJP will be the ones to blame and "will pay for it". "We are doing various development works in Dera Baba Nanak," he said.

Punjab Public Works Department minister Vijay Inder Singla, however, said, "There was joint meeting in which Government of India and state government officials participated in order to finalise the route for langha (corridor). After the meeting, Punjab CM has sent a proposal to Government of India for approval."

"After the discussions, we picked one option and sent it to Government of India," said Singla, adding that the "land acquisition will happen through state government" once all stakeholders give the permissions.

Randhawa's opponent Sucha Singh Langah, who had contested unsuccessfully against him in 2017 Assembly elections from Dera Baba Nanak and who was later expelled by SAD after he was booked (later acquitted) in a rape case, said, "Delay is on the part of Punjab government. Why do they take credit when they are not doing any implementation. When the Centre is committed to the project, why do they wait for funds from Centre. They should start the acquisition and Centre is committed to sanction funds."

SAD (Taksali) leader Sewa Singh Sekhwan said, "The delay is for the reason that there is BJP-led government at Centre and Congress government in Punjab. There is no coordination. If both Centre and state government want, the project could be complete well in time. The work can be carried out in three shifts round the clock. Work is on in Pakistani side on war footing."

Sekhwan said if executed in time, the project will "definitely benefit the BJP". He added that "it will also personally benefit Navjot Singh Sidhu". "Navjot Sidhu was called deshdrohi (traitor) for hugging (Pakistan Army chief) the General. BJP also objected, Captain Amarinder Singh also objected. But when the proposal actualised, BJP went on to send two ministers to Pakistan. Whoever delays the project, would earn the wrath of Sikh community," he said.

Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujjwal said once the details of the project were received, concerned Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) would facilitate the land acquisition.

A senior National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) official said the corridor route had been finalised and "permissions were being sought as required from various departments". The official added that once the permissions were in place NHAI will "start the land acquisition process".