Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday differed from a party MP's stand on the commutation of terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana's death sentence, saying he is against capital punishment.
Ludhiana Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, who is the grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed, has questioned the centre's move, saying the terrorist should not be "spared" at any cost.
Rajoana was given death penalty for involvement in the killing of Beant Singh, credited with ending terrorism in Punjab, on August 31, 1995.
Talking to reporters in Ludhiana on Monday, the Chief Minister said he was personally against death penalty, which he had said back in 2012 too. All cases of death penalty should be commuted to life imprisonment, he said, indirectly endorsing the commutation of the death sentence.
He, however, said the Congress's stand on Beant Singh's killers had always been clear and consistent - that they should serve their full sentence.
The Chief Minister said the centre demanded a list of 17 prisoners booked under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act from the state government.
"Rajoana's name was in the list of the 17 prisoners submitted to the centre as he was a TADA prisoner who had completed more than 14 years in jail, like the other prisoners on the list," he said, adding that the state had no role in the centre's decision.
He said the state government was yet to receive the names of the nine people who had been given special exemption by the Home Ministry.
Mr Bittu questioned the union government's move. "Who are they to commute the death sentence to life term when the Supreme Court has given capital punishment (to Rajoana)?" Bittu said in Ludhiana on Monday. "He (Rajoana) is a dreaded terrorist and should not be spared at any cost," the Ludhiana Congress MP said.
Hitting out at the BJP, Mr Bittu said the BJP indulged in petty politics to woo Sikh voters despite the Prime Minister vowing to fight terrorism on a global platform. "My family suffered a huge loss with the killing of my grandfather but we are prepared for another battle and would not let the BJP push Punjab into days of terrorism," Mr Bittu said.
Reacting to queries, Amarinder Singh said, "As an ex-Armyman, I can assure the people that we are fully prepared to counter any threat and will not let the peace of Punjab be disturbed under any circumstances."
Five-time chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal patron-in-chief Parkash Singh Badal praised the decision, terming it "statesmanlike, far-sighted and humane".
Mr Badal said the gesture would go a long way in assuaging sentiments. "Every step that strengthens hands of the forces of peace and communal harmony and cements the Hindu-Sikh unity in Punjab and the country should be welcomed by everyone," said Mr Badal in a statement.
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