Long before lawmakers from Uttar Pradesh undertook a leisure trip abroad at a time when the country's economy is going through difficult times, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, a RTI reply has shown, splurged public money to watch London Olympics in July, 2012.
Accompanied by two members from his office and former Indian hockey team captain Pargat Singh, who is now an Akali Dal MLA, Mr Badal, 51, spent a week in the British capital as part of a "study tour'' sponsored by Punjab Sports Council. Reply to a RTI query has revealed that Rs 32.44 lakh was spent on his week-long trip. The amount was underwritten by the Punjab Sports Council, which is yet to get a report from Mr Badal on his experiences. The stated aim of the trip was to examine latest sports technologies so as to implement them in his home state.
The four-member team travelled business class, and incurred an expenditure of Rs 4.92 lakh for their three-day stay in the swanky Hotel Marriot in the British capital. Another Rs 16.75 lakh was paid to the travel major, Thomas Cook for a three-day package. On top of this, Mr Badal was offered Rs 1.25 lakh as pocket money every day.
The opposition Congress hit out at Mr Badal for "looting" public money. "This is a loot of public exchequer. Mr Badal is one of the richest politicians. This was his personal visit. He should have gone on personal expense,'' said Punjab Congress spokesperson Sukhpal Khaira.
Mr Badal, however, remains unrepentant. "Everything is worthless for the Congress. I have come here, this is also worthless,'' the Punjab deputy chief minister said in response to the Congress' accusation.
A 17-member delegation of Uttar Pradesh MLAs and ministers had gone on 18-day-long junket to seven countries last month to study parliamentary procedures. The trip's itinerary, however, showed that it was more of leisure-cum-sightseeing visit, triggering widespread popular outrage.