Kabaddi players in Pakistan sent by faction controlled by BJP ally Sukhbir Badal
Indian Kabaddi players playing in a tournament in Pakistan have turned out to be representing an association, which is deemed a pocket organisation of Sukhbir Singh Badal
To the great embarrassment of the Union Government, as many as 60 Kabaddi players from Punjab now playing in a tournament in Pakistan, have turned out to be from Punjab Kabaddi Association (PKA), which is virtually controlled by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a BJP ally in the NDA.
Both central government and the state government have washed their hands off by pointing out that the Association had sought no permission and had not been provided any clearance either to travel to Pakistan and represent India.
The PKA itself, after details spilled into the public domain, has been painstakingly defending the players, saying that they had gone in their individual capacity and were not representing India.
But photographs of the players with the national flag in Pakistan and wearing track suits with ‘India’ emblazoned on them, have fuelled the controversy. The fact that Pakistan Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation welcomed them as the Indian team has also been raked up. The PKA is headed by former minister in the state and SAD strongman Sikandar Singh Maluka and Tejinder Singh Mithukhera, who has accompanied the players to Pakistan, is known to be a close confidante of Sukhbir Singh Badal, the former deputy chief minister.
Tejinder Singh has been the polling agent of Sukhbir Singh Badal and is said to be a member of his ‘ kitchen cabinet’.
Kirren Rijiju, union minister in charge of sports and youth affairs, maintained that it was Pakistan which had granted Visa to the players and the Government of India had no responsibility for the trip.
But political observers say that the Government of India could not have been oblivious of such a large contingent of Kabaddi players applying and getting Pakistani Visa. Questions are also being raised about the role of Intelligence agencies. How could they have failed to alert the Government is a question being asked.
Another question being raised is why information was not shared with the Union and the state government by players and the association before travelling to Pakistan.
Reports reaching from Pakistan suggest that many of the 60 Indian players are representing other ‘ international’ teams as well, besides playing as ‘ team india’.
The controversy comes in the background of the Centre refusing permission to three Punjab ministers to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. When ministers are being denied permission, despite the recommendation of the Punjab chief minister, how could the Kabaddi players sail through the border?
Punjab Congress President Sunil Jakhar has demanded an inquiry into the controversy.