Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will brave the heat and dust on the roads of Punjab for the next three months to take the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance head on after being coaxed by a majority of party legislators during a lunch hosted by him on Tuesday. The legislators urged him to play a proactive role in the state instead being just a part-time politician.
Of the total 43 Punjab Congress legislators, 25 called on Amarinder in the past two days at his Sector 10 residence in Chandigarh and four others pledged their support from abroad on telephone. All legislators in unison urged the former CM to spend more time in Punjab instead of Delhi to strike a chord with the cadres to boost their morale.
The legislators told Amarinder that whether the party high command offers him any official position in the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC), but he being a member of Parliament (MP) from Amritsar, has every right to chalk out a strategy to strengthen the party's state unit and galvanise the waning confidence of party workers.
During his 40-minute meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on June 8, Amarinder got no response to his suggestions to revive and strengthen the party before the state assembly polls slated for 2017.
Some more vocal legislators even conveyed to Amarinder that the line he had taken to oppose the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe against Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia on the drug issue had not gone down well with the people of Punjab, especially his hardcore supporters, and it gave an impression as if he had struck a compromise with the Akalis.
During the luncheon meeting, the legislators also rubbished reports of Amarinder and his loyalists floating a new political outfit. "There is no truth in it. Such rumours are being spread to weaken the party," said a Congress legislator.
Amarinder was told that for the revival of the party, he has to cut down on his personal engagements and should devote most of the time to party functions to strengthen it in the state. "Punjab needs a leader who can taken on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal head on," said a legislator.
Amarinder and his loyal party MLAs will cover two assembly constituencies per day during the next three months. Amarinder will also spare seven-eight hours to meet party workers and support those who are being politically victimised by the ruling alliance.
The MLAs who made to the luncheon meeting include Dr Rajkumar Verka, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Kewal Dhillon, Harchand Kaur, Mohammed Sadique, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Aruna Chaudhary, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sangat Singh Giljian, Rajnish Kumar, Rana Gurjit Singh, Navtej Singh Cheema, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Amrik Singh Dhillon, Karan Kaur Brar, Tarlochan Singh Soondh, Guriqbal Kaur, Preneet Kaur, Sadhu Singh, Hardyal Singh Kamboj, Charanjit Singh Channi, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Ramanjit Singh Sikki.
Other MLAs, including Om Parkash Soni, Joginder Singh Panjgraian, Sunil Jakhar and Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, who are currently on foreign trips, also extended their support to Amarinder on telephone. Sodhi sent his son Heera Singh Sodhi to mark his presence at the luncheon. Similarly, former Congress MP Mohinder Singh Kaypee also conveyed his support to Amarinder on phone.
Though Channi and Soondh were unable to turn up for the luncheon meeting, both had called on Amarinder on Monday to discuss the party issues.