Punjab's new party with a difference, People's Party of Punjab (PPP), has landed itself in trouble with the coach and family of 100-year-old marathoner Fauja Singh on Wednesday seeking compensation of Rs.100,000 from it for his "political misuse" in the run-up to the January 30 assembly polls.
In a hard-hitting statement issued from London, the family, coach and running club, Sikhs in the city (SITC), said the "misuse of Fauja Singh for political purposes" was unwarranted.
"We were shocked to learn that during his annual trip to India, Fauja Singh was lured into the political scene by those who chose to ignore our public statement issued in April last year for personal gain," the statement said.
Fauja Singh was invited for a political function by the PPP in Amritsar on Monday and statements were issued saying that he wanted voters in Punjab to give an opportunity to the PPP leadership to come to power in the state.
The PPP was floated last year by former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal after he fell out with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal leadership and his chief minister uncle Parkash Singh Badal owing to ideological differences.
Pointing out that Fauja Singh was a global figure and the family and coach had last year issued certain guidelines on his involvement with various activities, the statement said: "The PPP appears to have abused the vulnerability of an old man for its own ends and we are deeply dismayed by lack of respect by those who were instrumental in using an apolitical figure for political gain.
"We will have to seriously consider if Fauja Singh will be allowed to be used like this in the future."
Describing him as a "simple man", Fauja Singh's coach Harmander Singh said: "It would be reasonable to expect the Election Commission seeking details of the costs any political party had incurred in engaging Fauja Singh for their benefit.
"...We (SITC) seek in pounds sterling the equivalent of Rs.100,000 within 90 days as compensation for misusing our esteemed member. We are not bothered if this causes any political party difficulties with the election commission."
The statement hoped that the "people of Punjab will all cast their votes wisely".
Fauja Singh, who is now a British national, was recently visiting Punjab. He left for London Tuesday after spending time at his native village Beas Pind near Jalandhar and other places in the state.