The bitter wrangling in the Punjab Congress appears to be far from over with former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh set to up the ante against state unit head Partap Singh Bajwa during his joint meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday.
There was intense speculation that Amarinder is set to meet Rahul on Friday, a day after Bajwa claimed that the Congress vice-president will join his padyatra (foot march) against the “failures” of the Akali-Dal-BJP coalition government from October 2.
However, AICC sources clarified there was no such meeting scheduled for Friday and that Amarinder will meet both Sonia and Rahul at the Congress president’s 10, Janpath residence on Monday.
The Congress is looking to consolidate its position in Punjab with the Akali Dal-led government on the back-foot over its “failure” to check the rise in drug menace and “poor handling” of the agrarian crisis. The recent Moga incident in which a teenage girl was molested and thrown off a moving bus has given the Congress fresh ammunition to attack the ruling combine.
But the Congress leadership is worried that the growing feud between Amarinder and Bajwa would spoil the party’s chances of coming back to power in Punjab in 2017 elections and might help the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is eyeing the state after its stupendous victory in Delhi early this year. The AAP had won 4 out of the total 13 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 general elections.
Congress sources insisted that Bajwa “isn’t out of the woods yet”. “Rahul’s nod to join a party programme does not mean that there won’t be any change of guard if the leadership feels it is imperative,” a senior central leader said.
A compromise formula is likely to be worked out at Monday’s meeting, according to which Amarinder could be appointed the campaign committee chief, who for all practical purposes is the party’s chief ministerial candidate, while Bajwa remains the state president.