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Badal... Plunged Pb Into Crisis.

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CHANDIGARH: According to leaked US diplomatic cables on the mirror websites of WikiLeaks, Punjab’s coalition government was facing a leadership crisis with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal having abdicated authority to his son Sukhbir Singh Badal.

This despatch, signed off by then US ambassador to India David Mulford, was part of the October 2008 country report, and the leaks have taken place barely five months before the state goes to polls in 2012.

“It’s like a plane with no pilot. Who is in charge, Badal or Badal Jr?” the cable mentions a question being asked of the US embassy official on his visit to Punjab.

Quoting sources, the country report says the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government is in crisis because Sukhbir Badal, who is also the deputy chief minister, regularly serves in an official capacity at the inauguration of development projects, which is riling the BJP for it believes SAD is taking all the credit.

Mulford’s report is scathing in its assessment of the SAD-BJP government’s performance: from saying that Punjab’s human development indices in education and health are comparable to some of the most backward states, to the government’s apathy to burning issues like drug use and unemployment.

The reports, a mix of assessments and opinions by industrialists and journalists, were vetted by American embassy officials. They also point out signs of decline in Punjab despite its strong agricultural sectors and nascent real estate and industrial sectors.

“The human development indices in education and health are comparable to some of the most backward states,” the cable says. Quoting bureaucrats, the cable says that several “contacts” raised the issue of rampant drug use as the number one social challenge facing the state.

“The (then) director general of Punjab Police N P S Aulakh mentioned that the problem has worsened in the last 10 years and affects people from all income brackets across the state. On October 9, DGP Aulakh noted that Amritsar airport police had seized 3.7 kg of heroin worth more than $1 million from an elderly couple,” says the cable.

“Badal will be hard pressed to meet the expectations of the Punjab electorate. He will have to devise an effective outreach strategy to convince local Punjabis that SAD-BJP is responsive to local needs or risk losing political capital to the rival Congress party,” the cable concluded.

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