As former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh staked his claim to the presidency of the Punjab Congress through a show of strength over lunch, and the announcement of a rally in Amritsar on January 22, incumbent chief Partap Singh Bajwa too sounded the bugle and sought to claim the rally as that of the state unit led by him.
Welcoming the “belated” initiative, he said the announcement by Amarinder to confront BJP national chief Amit Shah at Amritsar on January 22 with a counter rally was “an endorsement of the work of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC)”.
He added that the rally would be “under the umbrella of the PPCC” and the modalities would be chalked out “in consultation with the party high command” after the Muktsar rally on the occasion of Maghi on January 14. “I am happy that the party is getting united to confront Amit Shah. The PPCC has already announced the January 22 programme. It is the PPCC programme that has been endorsed by Captain Amarinder and I welcome it,” Bajwa said in a press statement adding that the party would reiterate its demand for a CBI probe into the drug racket.
But Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar, who was fulsome in praise of Amarinder at the lunch meeting, said it was Amarinder who had initiated the programme and, as the MP representing Amritsar and the deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, “he has every right to do so”: “Everyone is welcome to join the crusade against drugs and strengthen the Congress.”
Bajwa also pointed out that since the arrest of prime accused Jagdish Bhola in the drug racket, the state Congress had been in protest mode, with a ‘chakka jam’ on January 16, 2014, and then a chain hunger strike from January 19 to 28 in Chandigarh; the latest being dharnas at the district headquarters on January 5.
Conversions on protest agenda
The PPCC chief added that Shah would be questioned by the Congress over “forced conversions” under ‘ghar vapsi’ programmes of the Sangh Parivar; “Punjabi farmers of Gujarat facing the threat of being uprooted”; and non implementation of ‘one rank one pension’ decision for army veterans.