Punjab Congress Corners Bhagwant Mann over ‘Encroachment’ by AAP MP Ashok Mittal

Barely a few days after Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann supervised a much publicised government drive to take possession of 2,828 acres of illegally encroached prime land worth Rs 350 crore in Mohali, a row has erupted over delays in clearing the encroachment, allegedly by an institution owned by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Mittal, over a panchayat land.

Phagwara-based Lovely Professional University (LPU), owned by Mittal, reportedly has encroached upon a government plot, even as the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats was allegedly “going slow” on getting the land vacated.

The Congress has cornered the AAP government over the issue.

In a tweet, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring questioned CM Mann and Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats Kuldeep Dhaliwal.

“Have a look at it, please. @BhagwantMann Sahab, is your anti-encroachment drive only meant for ordinary people or your political opponents? Hope minister Dhaliwal Sahab applies the same yardstick here as well. Caeser’s wife must be above suspicion,” tweeted Warring, quoting a report in the Tribune.

Congress MLA from Punjab Sukhpal Singh Khaira threw an open challenge to Mann to take back the panchayat land in Hardaspura village in Phagwara.

“It would be a litmus test for Mann and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal about the sincerity and bona fides of Punjab government’s initiative to free panchayat land in the villages,” Khaira said.

Khaira produced a letter of Punjab’s Rural Development Deputy Director directing the DDPO concerned to free the land at the earliest.

He termed the government drive to clear encroachments a sham and added that it was only aimed at seeking publicity for the government even as his associates violate the norms.

“Mann and Kejirwal must get the land reclaimed from Mittal at the earliest to demonstrate government’s impartiality with regard to panchayat land,” Khaira said, adding the drive seems a mere political “gimmickry and publicity stunt”.

Meanwhile, stung by the criticism, the Mann government reportedly has asked local authorities to proceed legally to get the land vacated.

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