Zail Singh, Sanjay responsible for Punjab mess in 80s: book

Former President Giani Zail Singh in his tenure as Punjab Chief Minister and Sanjay Gandhi have been blamed for the Punjab crisis of the 80s in a book on Congress.

The fifth volume of the series 'A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress' makes critical observations on "dirty politics" in the name of religion in Punjab that it concluded was one of the factors for terrorism and the Khalistan agitation in Punjab.

As reported in 'The Indian Express' on May 8 by Consulting Editor Seema Chishti, the book goes on to say: "It is inconceiveable that they could have done so without Indira Gandhi's consent. Sanjay and Zail Singh believed that by advocating extremist causes the young preacher would embarrass the Akali Dal. Precisely, the reverse happened. Bhindranwale soon turned into a classic Frankenstein's monster and embarked upon devouring his creators."

"Dirty politics and the use of religion for political ends clearly boomeranged on the Akali and Congress leadership with disastrous consequences for the Sikh community and the Indian state" the book says commenting on the situation in the aftermath of the Operation Blue Star.

Noting that Congress emerged as the single largest party in the state assembly in the 1972 elections and formed a government headed by Zail Singh, the book says, "by introducing a religious tone to Punjab politics, Giani succeeded to a great extent in weakening the Akalis. But the result--growing communalisation of provincial politics—was disastrous."

The book notes that Zail Singh organised one of the biggest religious processions "in order to secure Sikh votes for Congress".

In the chapter "Indira Gandhi: An Overview" the book says that Zail Singh, who was Congress Chief Minister of Punjab in the 1970s - and first Home Minister in Indira's 1980 cabinet and later still the country's President – had "unwisely" but ostensibly "tried to steal Akalis's clothes" by pandering heavily to religious sentiments of Sikhs."

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