The Congress is planning to announce its candidates for the 2017 Punjab assembly elections in advance, general secretary and in-charge of Punjab affairs Shakeel Ahmad said on Tuesday while holding meetings on the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Dr BR Ambedkar.
He said the opinion on early distribution of tickets for the elections is divided within the party. "One opinion is that it leads to exploitation of candidates and even jeopardises their life. The other is that it is imperative to do so in face of regional parties nominating their candidates early. We are not a one-state party like the Shiromani Akali Dal but a national party and we need to have a uniform policy throughout the country. One way to do it is to inform the candidates early but announce their names near to elections," Ahmad said while answering media queries.
On speculations that Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa could be soon replaced, Ahmad said he was tired of giving same answer to questions on Bajwa's ouster since the past two years. "Bajwa will stay till he enjoys the confidence of party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi," he said.
On parallel rallies of former Punjab chief minister and the party's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh, he reiterated that any leader of the party, be it an MLA or MP, had the right to hold public meetings lest he does not attack the party's national and state leaders or its policies. "Amarinder is the senior-most leader of the party in Punjab and if he is holding rallies or undertaking a foreign tour, there is nothing wrong in it. He will not do anything that will harm the party," Ahmad said.
On the high command's pitch for unity between Amarinder and Bajwa, Ahmad said he was in touch with both the leaders. "We are trying to unite all factions and give a message that Congress is one," he added.
On Amarinder's consistent statement that he cannot work with Bajwa, Ahmad said both are the tallest leaders of the party in the state and couldn't be expected to share stage or seen together every day. "They had come together during the Dhuri bypolls," he said. When asked about the possible announcement of the CM candidate for Punjab polls, Ahmad said the party has not taken any decision in this regard. "If it has to happen, it will be before the elections," Ahmad added.
He announced that along with Dr Ambedkar's celebrations, the party would also observe the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. A total of six programmes will be held in the state. The first will be held in Ludhiana on August 30, he added.
Bajwa's next phase of rallies from tomorrow
Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa will begin the next phase of his mass contact programme from Thursday from Nihal Singh Wala. His rallies and public meetings will continue through August and September to cover all 34 reserved seats in the state.
Meanwhile, at the meeting on Dr Ambedkar's birth anniversary celebrations, MLA Kuljit Nagra said the party should hold agitations instead of rallies. Dalit leaders - former Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo and MLA CharanjIt Channi - said the party was losing support of the Dalits in Punjab and mere celebrations of Dr Ambedkar's birth anniversary were not enough.
Other MLAs present at the meeting were Sangat Singh Gilzian, Brahm Mohindra, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Raj Kumar Verka. Several senior leaders who are members of the party's Scheduled Caste committee, including Amarinder Singh, Sunil Jakhar, Lal Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Ambika Soni and some Dalit MLAs, did not attend the meeting.