Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's upcoming Punjab visit his first after the party's debacle in the January 30 assembly polls has evoked optimism as well as despondency within the rank and file.
Loyalists of Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh are seeing the visit, scheduled for October 10-11, as a shot in the arm for the former chief minister, who has been fighting hard to quell the rebellion in the state party unit. However, Amarinder's opponents feel that Rahul would make a fair assessment of the ground situation and could take drastic decisions to bring the party unit out of the doldrums.
Then there is a section of Congress leaders, which does not make much of Rahul's visit and feels this is another exercise by the high command to prepare him for a bigger role in the party at the national level.
Senior Punjab Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, known as Amarinder's bete noire, said, "Rahul's visit would infuse a fresh lease of life among party workers, who are reeling under state-sponsored terror and facing political vendetta at the hands of the Shiromani Akali Dal-led government"
When asked whether Rahul's visit would help iron out differences within the party unit, especially over the issue of the state Congress chief, Bhattal said party leaders might have difference of opinion on various matters, but when it came to the party, they all stood united.
"Our leader is Sonia Gandhi. Without the Gandhi family, the Congress has no existence. I met the Congress president in New Delhi on Friday and apprised her of the party affairs in Punjab", said Bhattal, without giving details of her meeting with Sonia.
Amloh MLA Randeep Singh Nabha, who is part of a committee formed earlier this month to gather views of senior party leaders on whether Amarinder should continue as Punjab Congress chief or not, said, "I have met Sonia Gandhi and briefed her about the party affairs in Punjab. I am not aware of the agenda of Rahul's visit, but it would surely boost workers' morale. I strongly believe that accountability is a must and no one should be allowed to create indiscipline in the party."
Gurdaspur MP Partap Bajwa, who is considered a strong contender to replace Amarinder, said Rahul's visit would provide an opportunity to resolve several pending issues. "We have not been able to stop many senior party leaders from switching over to the Akalis. Rahul will make an on-the-spot assessment about the reasons behind the unexpected defeat in the assembly elections. I met him on Thursday and he asked me to prepare a detailed report on the reasons behind the poll debacle. I would submit the report in a couple of days," said Bajwa.