In the season of protest marches and sit-ins, the opposition Congress is planning to steal the thunder of the ruling alliance in Punjab by showing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as “anti-patriotic” and the saffron party “as the partner in crime”.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, who had met officials and jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) a day before the SAD dharnas in towns along the India-Pakistan border on Monday, is now mulling to launch a campaign to highlight the sacrifices of the border forces.
Under the campaign, tentatively named ‘Pranam Shaheedan Nu’, ‘mashal’ (torchlight) marches will be held across the state, asking people to show solidarity with the jawans.
Though SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal had termed his party’s dharnas as not against the BSF but for demanding sealing of borders to rule out the inflow of drugs, Jakhar says Sukhbir’s dharnas have ‘stigmatised’ the border forces.
“Sukhbir’s plan was not just opposed by senior SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who said the dharnas will be seen as anti-national but even his father, CM Parkash Singh Badal, stayed away from such belligerence. We do not want to take any political mileage out of the ‘mashal’ marches. We will ask like-minded people to join us and show their solidarity for the forces when the blame lies within the society and the political system,” he added.
Meanwhile, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa is planning his own show -- against BJP president Amit Shah, who will be launching an anti-drug campaign in Punjab from January 22.
“I will not open my cards right now but we will take on Amit Shah head-on. The drug mafia has flourished in Punjab under this alliance and the BJP are partners in crime. Now the BJP is trying to take a higher moral ground,” Bajwa said.
The faction-ridden Congress has so far failed to put up a united front on the issue. After Jakhar rallied for the BSF, Bajwa had announced dhanas at all district headquarters on Monday, demanding sacking of the Badal government for ‘inciting’ people against the security forces. Bajwa had led the protest in Jalandhar, while Congress MLAs and PPCC office-bearers had done it in other districts. Jakhar was neither seen in Jalandhar nor at the dharna held by his party’s district unit at Fazilka.
Lack of unanimity
The two-pronged war on the government also shows the lack of unanimity between the CLP leader and the PPCC chief. On whether the PPCC and CLP are aware of the each other’s protests plans, Bajwa said it was not necessary that the two should be seen together on all occasions. “We are united and our mission is the same. We will be seen together at the Maghi Mela and will talk to each other before finalising the programme,” Bajwa said.
Jakhar, too, said he would first consult his party leaders before announcing the ‘mashal’ marches. “We have sought time from President Pranab Mukherjee for demanding sacking of the Punjab government for narco-terrorism after revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia being quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate in the Bhola drug case and chief parliamentary secretary Virsa Singh Valtoha calling himself a terrorist on the floor of the House during the just-concluded winter session. After we meet him, we will finalise our plan,” Jakhar added.