Wary of the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) aggressive opposition to the imminent execution of death-row convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, former Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh met party chief Sonia Gandhi to seek clemency for the Khalistani militant.
During his meeting with Gandhi on Monday, the former Punjab chief minister is learnt to have apprised her of the sensitivity of the matter in the state.
This is not the first time that Amarinder, known for his tough stand against capital punishment, has sought clemency for Bhullar. In the past, too, he had argued that hanging Bhullar would not solve the problem as the latter had already spent many years in prison.
Amarinder is understood to have told Gandhi that the sympathy of Sikhs was with Bhullar and that his hanging would go against the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, even as he demanded that the death sentence be commuted to life term.
The former CM's demand is significant, given that the Congress has already stated that it respected the Supreme Court order dismissing Bhullar's appeal challenging the President's rejection of his mercy plea.
Though the Punjab Congress has so far maintained silence on the issue, a section in the state unit strongly feels that the SAD will derive political mileage out of the issue and play the emotional card in the 2014 elections.
This section has pointed out to the volte-face made by the SAD on the issue, saying that the Badal government, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court in 2008, had called Bhullar a "hardened criminal and a dreaded terrorist".
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, SAD chief Sukhbir Badal, had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday to seek mercy for Bhullar, citing adverse emotional fallout of the issue in the state.