Enthused by support, the Congress is out to avenge a "betrayal".
Massive turnout at the opening rally of the local assembly byelection campaign on Saturday encouraged the Punjab Congress leaders to vow to punish Joginder Pal Jain, party's former legislator, for his switching over to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that forced the contest.
Punjab Congress president captain Amarinder Singh' member of Congress working committee (CWC) Jagmeet Singh Brar; state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar; and many sitting and former legislators (except Rajinder Kaur Bhattal) attended the grain market rally here.
Amarinder called for a vote against the "corrupt, inefficient, and dictatorial regime of the Badal family" in the byelection. "The contest will be a repeat of the Adampur byelection, where the Congress defeated the ruling SAD," he said.
"The SAD should not take it for granted that it will rule for five years," said Amarinder. "We have seen President's rule being imposed before." It was a hint at the law and order situation in the state.
Referring to revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, he said the Youth Akali Dal president was the "greatest goon on the loose". "One day, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal taunts him for eyeing his chair and the other day, comes to his defence," he said.
Amarinder also had a dig at the CM's claims of having spent 17 years in jail. "Badal Sahib, dasso 17 saal kehri jail ch rahe ho (Mr Badal, tell me in which jail have you served 17 years)?" he said. "He provoked violence, shut himself in the government guest houses, and came out and won elections."
Lashing out at Joginder Pal Jain, the Punjab Congress president said the former legislator himself said he was a businessman. "He's now at the right place, in the right company," said Amarinder, "of people who have done only business and robbed the state."
Jagmeet Singh Brar, member of the CWC, said the Moga byelection was a referendum for a war on corruption in the state. "It will decide whether a deserter who betrayed the trust of his voters is honoured or punished," he said, appealing to 62,000 voters of Moga who had elected Jain.
CLP leader Sunil Jakhar ridiculed Jain for saying he had pressing reasons to join the Akalis. "Leaders such as Jain do not have any compulsions," said Jakhar. "They have only weaknesses. The CM might field a Taksali Akali over him."
Legislators Arvind Khanna, Rana Gurjeet Singh, major Amardeep Singh, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Surinder Dawer, Mohammad Sadiqe, Amrik Dhillon, Gurkirat Kotli, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Ajaib Singh Bhati, Joginder Singh Panjgraian; state Mahila Congress president Malti Thapar; state Youth Congress president Vikram Chaudhry; and former legislators Darshan Singh Brar, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Ajit Singh Shant, and Chiranji Lal Garg were present.
United, so far
Moga Congress leaders Darshan Singh Brar, Malti Thapar, Vijay Sathi, Gurdarshan Kaur, and Jagroop Singh Takhtupura, all claimants for the byelection ticket, agreed to go by the party's choice of candidate.
* Congress leader Vijay Sathi twisted the lyrics of Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, "Ajj Aaakhan Waris Shah nun kiton kabraan vichchon bole", to mock at the state's law and order situation. "Aj aakhan Badal Saab nu kite Chandigarh vichon bole, fir kitabe julam da koi agla warka fol. (Let Badal speak from his Chandigarh residence, and find the next page in the book of atrocities)"
* The cold wave it at its peak in Moga but many people sat on the floor at the Congress rally for five hours, listening to the address of Capt Amarinder Singh
* Jagmeet Brar dubbed Joginder Pal Jain's desertion "rape of democracy"