Captain’s climbdown ‘for the sake of’ Barnalas, Sonia Gandhi | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Captain’s climbdown ‘for the sake of’ Barnalas, Sonia Gandhi

In the game of one-upmanship in the Congress, former Punjab chief minister and party’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday tried to checkmate state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by making a dramatic U-turn and announcing to campaign in Dhuri for two days -- April 6 and 8.

chandigarh Updated: Apr 03, 2015 11:20 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur

In the game of one-upmanship in the Congress, former Punjab chief minister and party’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday tried to checkmate state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by making a dramatic U-turn and announcing to campaign in Dhuri for two days -- April 6 and 8.

Amarinder’s belated move to campaign for Barnala family scion Simar Partap Singh comes within days of his tough posturing after accusing Bajwa of creating dual power centres.

“Bajwa appointed former Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla as poll incharge after I had named MLA Rana Gurmit Sodhi for the job. Bajwa also said that big names were not needed to win the bypoll. So I decided to let small ones win it. But Congress MLAs and I now feel that we need to respect the decision of Congress president Sonia Gandhi of choosing Simar Partap. Our differences are with Bajwa, not Barnalas,” he said.

On whether Sonia had asked him to campaign, the Captain said other senior leaders had spoken to him in this regard. The Barnalas, who have close ties with Amarinder, too, had been requesting his presence.

Other than humouring the high command, it will also be his show of strength against Bajwa who is slugging it out alone with a majority of Congress legislators giving Dhuri a miss. “No MLA is campaigning in Dhuri with Bajwa other than his wife,” Amarinder said.

While the Captain has proved his point -- that he alone commands a majority of Congress MLAs -- he will also try to blame Bajwa for “sabotaging” the party’s prospects if a victory proves elusive.

According to party sources, after a photo-op nomination where the two warring leaders had shared the stage, neither camp was willing to let the other walk away with credit for a victory.

So Bajwa, who needs a win to resurrect his flagging innings, decided to play the card of “collective” responsibility for the selection of the candidate and his victory or defeat.

But not willing to let Amarinder garner credit for a victory, he appointed his own B-team only to give Amarinder an excuse to opt out of the campaign and flag Bajwa’s “inability to take others along” before the high command.

Also, a victory would give Bajwa a fresh lease of life, something that would not be to Amarinder’s liking. “Neither wants to give other the credit. In the tug-of-war between them, a winnable seat will be gifted to the Akalis,” a Congress MLA said, requesting anonymity.

‘Bajwa has lived his ninth life’

How long will Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa stay at the helm? Capt Amarinder Singh believes his bete noire has lived his ninth life. He was commenting on Bajwa’s statement that “a cat has nine lives, he has more”. Senior MLA Lal Singh, who was earlier tipped to succeed Bajwa, was not present at Amarinder’s press conference, nor were loyalist MLAs Parminder Pinky and Navtej Cheema. Gurkirat Kotli made a late entry in his track suit. Lal Singh, when contacted, said he was in Patiala. Amarinder’s detractors claim that Lal Singh is peeved at the former for “sabotaging” his chances, which was denied vehemently by the Captain’s camp, saying Amarinder had endorsed Lal Singh’s name for the top job.