The stage is set for another round of oneupmanship between the rival camps within the Punjab Congress. September 29 will witness a celebration on the one hand and a protest on the other – both in Chandigarh.
A day after Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, returns to India after a month-long foreign tour, his loyalists, led by Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, are hosting a lunch for party MLAs and other leaders to celebrate the election of Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur as an MLA.
On the same day, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has planned a protest in front of the chief minister’s residence, besides submitting a memorandum to the governor in support of demands of industrialists and employees.
While PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa has announced 11.30am as the time to submit the memorandum, the CLP leader has requested MLAs and other party leaders to be present for lunch at a five star hotel at noon.
This has created confusion among state Congress leaders, who were getting phone calls from the PPCC office as well as the CLP leader that they must attend their respective programmes. Ironically, Bajwa is yet to be invited for the lunch.
Bajwa is already under fire after the defeat of party candidate Harminder Singh Jassi in the Talwandi Sabo byelection. “Bajwa has announced agitations on several occasions, but he is yet to launch a single one. Thus, there is no plan to be part of his delegation,” said an MLA, who is a Captain loyalist.
After lunch, the Captain, along with a battery of MLAs, will leave for the Vidhan Sabha for Preneet’s oath-taking ceremony.
Talking to HT, Jakhar said, “I had invited the MLAs for lunch during the September 20 CLP meeting on the controversy involving party MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra and subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Pooja Syal Grewal, much before the PPCC announced its programme. So, there is no ill-intention on our part.” He claimed that Bajwa had not consulted him before finalising the delegation for the protest.
When contacted, Bajwa said the PPCC finalised the programme during the industrialists’ agitation at Mandi Gobindgarh on Thursday. “For the Punjab Congress, raising industrialists’ issues is more important than any other event. It’s the duty of all district-level leaders to stand up for the industry and employees. The MLAs can join us for the protest in front of the CM’s residence. Then, they can leave for lunch, as our programme will be over by noon,” he said.