Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal along with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday started the party’s ‘Make India number one’ campaign from Haryana’s Hisar, even as Mr. Kejriwal appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find a solution to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — the focal point of a water-sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana — triggering a sharp reaction from political parties in Punjab.
“We want to make India number one in the world. It has been 75 years since India got Independence, but we are still not able to give quality education to our children. Also, we could not provide good health facilities to the people of our country. Without these facilities, the country cannot become number one. To make India the number one country, we have to give excellent and free education to our children,” Mr. Kejriwal said at a press conference in Hisar. He said he would travel across the country and connect every citizen on the campaign.
Replying to a question on the AAP’s stand on the emotive issue of the SYL canal, Mr. Kejriwal said, “What’s the stand of the Congress and the BJP in Punjab and Haryana? In Punjab, they say we will not let the SYL canal be constructed. In Haryana, they say we will take SYL waters at any cost. These people do dirty politics. There’s a shortage of water in both States… It’s the duty of the Centre to ensure water for Punjab and Haryana. The Centre’s role is not to make Punjab and Haryana fight. This way the country will not move forward.”
He said the Central government should find a solution so that the water needs of both States can be met. “I urge the Prime Minister to find a solution. If the Prime Minister is unable to find a solution, then he may invite me for tea. I can tell him the solution to the SYL dispute,” he added.
In Punjab, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) hit out at Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Mann over their stance on the issue.
Former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned Mr. Kejriwal’s statement on the SYL canal issue as well as the endorsement given by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to what he termed an “anti-Punjab” remark.
Mr. Badal alleged that the AAP was ready to sell out the interests of Punjab for electoral gains in Haryana and accused Mr. Mann of reducing the prestige of the post of the Chief Minister of Punjab. “Mr. Mann was led by the finger to Haryana and showcased as subservient to Mr. Kejriwal,” Mr. Badal said, adding that how Mr. Mann had endorsed the statement of Mr. Kejriwal was shameful and a blot on his chair. “Punjabis can never imagine their elected Chief Minister signing off their river waters but Bhagwant Mann is getting ready to do just this to remain in power.”
“The SAD has steadfastly protected Punjab’s river waters and will continue to do so. We are firm in our belief that the State does not have one drop of water to spare. We will not let one drop of water go out of the State to Haryana,” he said.
Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Partap Singh Bajwa, accused Mr. Mann of trivialising sensitive issues about the State. Mr. Bajwa said the SYL canal, river waters, transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas, and due representation in the Bhakra Beas Management Board, were long pending issues that must be resolved on top priority.
“Let Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Mann first understand that Punjab has the first right as per the Constitution of India on its river waters flowing through its territory. Though Haryana has no riparian right over the Punjab waters, it could seek its share of water only after amicable negotiations with the State,” Mr. Bajwa said.