Punjab Congress chief and Congress candidate for Gurdaspur bypoll, Sunil Jakhar, on Sunday asked Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal to break his silence on filing of a rape case against his former political ally Sucha Singh Langah. Jakhar also criticised his counterpart in Gurdaspur bypoll, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) candidate Swaran Salaria, for defending the rape accused former minister.

He also challenged Salaria to debate with him on any issue – from Goods and Service Tax (GST) to demonetisation, farmers, industry or unemployment.

Addressing a series of worker meetings in Batala, Jakhar alleged SAD president Sukhbir Badal had not bothered to utter a single word on the issue though two days had passed since the police filed the case, after which Langah had been absconding. Charging the Badals with destroying Punjab on all fronts, Jakhar accuse former Punjab chief minister (CM) Parkash Singh Badal for garnering votes in the name of the Panth (cult) and the farmers. He claimed the Badals were exposed by incidents such as Behbal Kalan (Fardikot) firing and farmer suicides.

The Congress candidate also came down heavily on the Badals for tagging him an ‘outsider’, saying he had been taking up issues of all areas of the state first as Leader of Opposition (LoP) and now as Punjab Congress chief. He claimed that Parkash Singh Badal often took him to meet former Prime Minister (PM) Dr Manmohan Singh because, as LoP, he would strongly plead the state’s case before the then PM.

Jakhar alleged that SAD-BJP government had led to the closure of 80 per cent of the industry in Batala and sugarcane farmers had not got their dues for the past two years. He said the farmers could not celebrate Diwali in the past 10 years as they would be camping in Mandis for release of paddy payment.

However, with the CM Captain Amarinder Singh led state government at the helm the farmers can now celebrate the festival, he added. “Not only were the farmers getting prompt payments but wheat procurement had been done in a smooth manner and the produce was sold at double the prices since the Congress government took over,” Jakhar said.