CHANDIGARH: Punjab minister Pargat Singh on Thursday slammed former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who voiced his support for the Centre's decision to extend the BSF's jurisdiction in the state, accusing the senior leader of having a role behind the move.
Amarinder Singh hit back at the minister, saying that he and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had nothing better to do than cook up ridiculous stories for cheap publicity.
In a joint press conference, Punjab ministers Pargat Singh and Vijay Inder Singla termed the Centre's decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force an "attack on federalism".
While slamming the Centre, Pargat Singh targeted Amarinder Singh as well, alleging that he was hand-in-glove with the BJP.
Pargat Singh, who is the education and sports minister in the Charanjit Singh Channi led Congress government, slammed the former chief minister who voiced his support for the Centre's move on Wednesday and said that it will "only make us stronger".
"Let's not drag the central armed forces into politics," Amarinder Singh had said.
Dubbing his statement "unfortunate", Pargat Singh, a former Indian hockey team captain, said, "He acts like he is with the BJP."
"What does Captain sahab (Amarinder) want to prove. I have always said that he is with the BJP," he said Pargat Singh made a reference to Amarinder Singh's recent visit to Delhi where he met Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
"When he had gone earlier, he got paddy procurement delayed, now he has done this mischief getting the Centre to extend BSF's jurisdiction," he alleged.
"Captain sahab, please do not do this. We respect you but do not get all this done after mixing up with the BJP," Pargat Singh said. Amarinder Singh hit back at Pargat Singh, saying that this was the height of irresponsibility from a state minister.
"You and @sherryontopp (Navjot Sidhu) are clearly birds of the same feather, with nothing better to do than cook up ridiculous stories for cheap publicity," the former chief minister's media advisor quoted him as saying in a tweet.
Amarinder Singh also took a dig at senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, who in response to being asked to comment on the former CM supporting the Centre's move, reportedly said why did Amarinder Singh not write to the Centre earlier to increase BSF's jurisdiction limit from 15 km to 50 km.
"How ridiculous! You mean I'm dictating @HMO (Union Home Ministry) decisions now not just in Punjab but also in Gujarat, WB (West Bengal), Assam, etc," Amarinder Singh asked Surjewala.
"A person who couldn't win an election in his own state (Haryana) has frankly no right to speak on national issues," the former chief minister said.
Pargat Singh claimed that with this order of the Centre, half of Punjab will come under the BSF's control.
The Centre wants to "later show Punjab as a disturbed state and push for the imposition of the Governor's rule", he alleged, adding that it will not be successful in its designs.
Minister Singla alleged that the BJP-led central government was trying to "infiltrate the rights of states, but it will not be allowed to break the federal structure".
"We have seen earlier how the Centre has tried to weaken the rights and powers of states," he said.
Meanwhile, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said that security forces should not be used as a political tool.
"We are proud of our security forces which are meant to secure our borders and protect India from foreign aggressors.
Using them to cover up failures and to clean up the mess created by leaders and governments is very alarming," he said in a tweet.
"It not only denigrates our brave forces but also adversely affects their morale, discipline and preparedness. It's this use of our forces as a political tool which should be avoided. No one knows it better than @ capt_amarinder Singh ji," he said.
The Union government has amended the BSF Act to authorise the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a 50-km stretch, instead of the existing 15 km, from the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
The Union Home Ministry issued a notification on October 11, amending a July, 2014 provision for BSF personnel and officers while they operate in the border areas.
Punjab shares border with Pakistan.
The notification will allow the BSF to execute the powers of search, seizure and arrest for the purpose of prevention of any offence punishable under the Passport Act, the Registration of Foreigners Act, the Central Excises and Salt Act, the Foreigners Act, the Foreign Exchange Management Act, the Customs Act or of any cognisable offence punishable under any other central act, according to officials.