After the bonhomie lunch in New Delhi, fresh trouble is brewing in the faction-ridden Punjab Congress over coffee. Former state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday kicked off his own parallel tour of the state to meet loyalists "ignored" by incumbent Partap Singh Bajwa.
However, after being served the unity lesson at Delhi, the former Punjab chief minister was cautious enough to term his visit as a move to "strengthen" the party in the state.
"Bajwa is holding public rallies in the state, but whereever more effort is required or things are not moving right, I will be there. After all, it is also my duty as the permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee to see to it that there are no disgruntled partymen and leaders. We will not let the morale of such partymen down, but boost it," he said while addressing the informal coffee meeting that "turned" into a rally.
Interestingly, in July, Bajwa had attended a function at the house of Jarnail Singh Meripuria, friend-turned-detractor of the Captain's confidant, Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh. The firebrand MLA had publicly aired his displeasure and ensured boycott of the function by the district Congress president and all nine municipal councillors. Rana, the man behind the meet, however, said it was just a coffee invite for partymen wanting to meet the Captain. "It later turned into lunch. Also, it was meant to be just a small meeting that turned into a rally," he quipped.
He also dramatically apologised for putting up a mike at the residence of his confidant and asked both Congress block presidents (rural and urban) to stand up and seek apology for their act. Workers and party leaders from the district welcomed the former party president and waited for him for more than three hours. Amarinder also appealed to them to attend Bajwa's rallies if he organises his own meeting in the area during the coming days.
"We are all united. Everyone has the right to stand for the workers. We are not on a collision course with the PPCC programmes, rather we are supplementing these," the Captain said. He also ruled out chances of leaving Punjab politics for offers of the post of governor or ambassador. "I will continue to serve the people of Punjab up to my last breath," he added.
Those present on the occasion included Khadoor Sahib MLA Ramanjeet Singh Sikki, Dharamveer Agnihotri, Capt Harminder Singh Bajwa and district Congress committee president HS Parmar.
Capt calls up Thomas for relaxing paddy norms
Though his plan to visit the grain market to protest against the rejection of paddy stocks by procurement agencies for not meeting specification norms was executed a day earlier by his successor Partap Singh Bajwa, the Captain visited the local grain market and interacted with farmers on Monday.
District planning committee chairman Sarabjeet Singh Makkar, a former Akali MLA, blocked traffic along with party workers and blamed the Centre for the slow procurement. "The Captain is here to meet farmers to rub salt into their wounds. We should not allow him to enter the grain market," Makkar said while appealing to party workers and farmers to show black flags to Amarinder. The dharna was lifted at 2.30pm, while the Captain arrived at the grain market at 4.30pm. Heavy police force was deployed to avoid any untoward incident.
Amarinder later called up union food minister KV Thomas and urged him to relax specifications for paddy procurement. "I told the minister that the moisture content, discolouration and other norms should be relaxed to avoid a law and order problem in the state. The minister assured that a central team will visit Punjab on Tuesday to look into the matter," the former CM added.