The Punjab Congress’ rival factions put up a united front here on Monday, with senior leaders Capt Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa appearing together in public — for the first time since the party’s Sangrur rally in October 2013 — to launch the campaign of Simarpartap Singh Barnala, party-backed Sanjha Morcha candidate for the April 11 Dhuri bypoll. Simarpartap, grandson of former Punjab CM Surjit Singh Barnala, is contesting on the Congress symbol.
Though state Congress president Bajwa and his predecessor Amarinder shared the dais and acknowledged each other’s presence in their speeches, they neither exchanged a word nor shook hands. However, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Shakeel Ahmad said the party was united, adding that difference of opinion was an integral part of democracy.
Leaders including Bajwa, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Sanjha Morcha leaders Bibi Surjit Kaur Barnala, Baldev Singh Mann and Manjit Singh Calcutta were present on the stage, the morcha projected Amarinder as the main speaker.
The Captain hit out at the Badals for their ‘misgovernance’, raising issues such as the drug menace, rising debt on the state and the land acquisition bill.
Amarinder added that under the Badals, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had turned into a private limited company to loot Punjab. “(Parkash Singh) Badal has slowly and steadily shunted out all important Akali leaders such as Surjit Singh Barnala and Manjit Singh Calcutta to control the party. He didn’t even spare his nephew Manpreet Badal. So, it’s time to punish Badal for exploiting the issues of Punjabi suba (state) and river waters,” the former CM said.
“It’s time to express your resentment against the SAD-BJP government, otherwise they will take you granted and further loot Punjab,” he added.
Amarinder further said: “I was part of the cabinet of them CM Surjit Singh Barnala. Simarpartap is like my own grandson. The entire Congress will remain present to put up a strong fight against the SAD.”
Earlier, Bajwa said the Congress, on coming to power in the state, would probe the Akalis’ role in the drug trade, which had ruined Punjab.
Ahmad said, “The entire state party leadership agreed on Simarpartap’s candidature because everyone respects Surjit Singh Barnala’s honesty.”
Bhattal, Jakhar, and other also spoke on the occasion.
Later, all leaders accompanied Simarpartap to the subdivisional magistrate’s (SDM’s) office, where he filed his nomination papers.