Political circles in Punjab are abuzz with speculation over People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Badal meeting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi recently to “chalk out a merger plan”.
Senior leaders in the Congress and PPP claim such a move is afoot and an announcement could be made in October. A senior PPP official from Doaba, who enjoys proximity with Manpreet, said the party chief had hinted at a merger with the Congress and is keen on being allotted seven to 10 assembly seats.
However, Manpreet, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s estranged nephew, denied the the reports as “baseless”.
While talking to HT, Manpreet said he had had no meeting with Rahul on any merger or alliance for Punjab polls. “These speculations have been on for five years since I formed my party after parting ways with the SAD,” he said.
Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, who was in Mukerian on Friday, however, did not reject the reports outright.
“Our party is in touch with many leaders who are willing to join the Congress. I am of the opinion that even the left parties should be taken on board to forge an alliance to fight the SAD-BJP combine,” Bajwa said, adding that the Congress would give a few “shocks” to the SAD in politically sensitive Malwa region in the coming days.
Bajwa’s keenness to get Manpreet on board is to counter the clout of Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha and Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh with a leader with the surname Badal.
Amarinder had not been keen on an alliance with Manpreet in the 2012 polls. The fledgling party had managed to garner more than 5% vote share and was later blamed by the Congress as one of the factors for its debacle.