Denying allegations of embezzlement of party funds levelled against him by his former associates, People's Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Badal on Thursday sought to change the political equation in the state as he proposed an alliance with the Congress "for a stronger opposition against the ruling SAD-BJP combine".
Claiming that all 22 district PPP presidents remain with him, the former finance minister said the party was united in favour of an "electoral understanding" with the Congress "in the interest of the state".
However, he added that the next step would be to get the proposal accepted by the Sanjha Morcha, an amalgam of the PPP, Left parties and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Longowal. If a consensus evolves within the Sanjha Morcha, which is to meet on November 20, a "united opposition" could emerge in the municipal body polls due in the coming months and the panchayat elections scheduled for May next year.
In an interaction with HT, Manpreet ruled out the assertions of his political opponents that there was a possibility of his joining the Congress and that he met certain Congress leaders recently.
On allegations of embezzlement of party funds levelled by his fellow PPP founder Arunjot Sodhi, Manpreet replied, "I do not need to reply to our erstwhile party employee (Sodhi) who was asked to leave the office as he had crossed over to the ruling SAD." He sought evidence to prove that he had pocketed the Rs 3 crore collected by the PPP from abroad before the January assembly polls: "The PPP remains hand-to-mouth, as our total funds constantly remain below Rs 1 crore."
Manpreet also held a meeting of the PPP district chiefs here on Thursday, purportedly to counter Sodhi's claim that "90% of the PPP leadership in the state is against Manpreet". Calm in the face of what is being seen as gradual disintegration of the PPP, Manpreet, who parted ways with his uncle Parkash Singh Badal's party SAD last year, stressed, "Most of the district unit chiefs were here, and those who were unable to attend have expressed their confidence in the party leadership." He dubbed as "professional politicians" those who had left the PPP after contesting the assembly polls on the party's ticket.
Flanked by his trusted lieutenants, including Gurpreet Bhatti and Bhagwant Mann, Manpreet rubbished Sodhi's announcement of convening a "general house meet" of the PPP on December 16: "Sodhi has no such right as per the party constitution. Only the party president can convene such a meet."
'WILL MEET DISSIDENTS'
On Shaheed Bhagat Singh's nephew Abhey Sandhu's resentment over his style of functioning, Manpreet said he would personally approach Sandhu and any other dissidents within the party to resolve differences. Sandhu, one of the star members of the PPP, had on Wednesday supported the allegations levelled by Sodhi against the PPP chief.