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Congress ‘loyalists’ approach party high command against tickets to Akali rebels

Punjab Election 2017 Updated: Dec 12, 2016 01:22 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Punjab Congress

Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh and his wife, MLA Preneet Kaur, wave to supporters at a road show in Patiala.(HT file photo)

Trouble appears to be brewing in the Punjab Congress with the induction of several former members of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) into the party ahead of the assembly elections.

A group of Congress ‘loyalists’ have approached the party high command with a plea to reconsider the proposed move by the state leadership to field the former Akali Dal legislators in the upcoming polls.

Nearly a dozen members of the ruling party have joined the Congress in the past few weeks, causing widespread resentment. The Akali Dal had denied tickets to some of them.

There seems to be no opposition from the Congress aspirants to cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu and former hockey captain Pargat Singh, but the proposed move to field former Akali leaders such as Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Deepinder Singh Dhillon, Harinder Pal Singh Harry Mann and Inderbir Singh Bolaria is facing stiff resistance. While Sidhu came from the BJP, Pargat had resigned from the Akali Dal.

Perhaps that is the reason why the Congress has put on hold its first list of candidates despite the party’s central election committee having met twice — first on December 3 and then on December 8.

A section in the Punjab Congress has told the party high command that by inducting these Akali Dal members, the party was “spoiling its chances” to regain power in the state after 10 years. The move also gives a handle to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to attack the Congress, they argued.

“We are in a commanding position, but inducting Akali discards will definitely hurt us,” a Punjab Congress leader said. “We have been fighting these Akalis for 10 years and now we are forced to welcome them in the Congress.”

This section is also of the view that the Congress ‘loyalists’ will work against the party if rebel Akali Dal members are considered during ticket distribution.

Congress sources said the high command assured these “disgruntled” aspirants that their concerns will be addressed.

Addressing a rally at Tangra village in Amritsar district on Friday, AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal termed as “stage-managed” the recent development of Akali Dal members quitting the party and joining the Congress.