Punjab is set to witness a politically electrifying Tuesday, with the major parties all geared up for a show of strength, virtually blowing the bugle for the 2017 assembly elections.
While the arch-rivals deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh —will hold rallies in each other’s strongholds, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will organise district-level rallies against the Akali-BJP government. As if all this is not enough, former MP Simranjit Singh Mann’s Panthic party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) is holding a rally at Bargari village in Faridkot district, the epicentre of incidents of sacrilege.
Taking up the challenge thrown by the Badals during their first Sadbhawna rally on November 23, Amarinder will try to make his presence felt in Bathinda — the Badals’ bastion. The SAD, in a counter-rally, has picked Patiala — the home turf of the newly-appointed state Congress chief.
Usually, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president takes charge at the Chandigarh office, but Amarinder decided to start his new stint at the Bathinda rally, which is named badlav (change) rally. Congress rally organisers are expecting a huge gathering to converge from the region Malwa.
“Our rally is entirely due to our own efforts, whereas in Patiala, government machinery is being used to bring in the public. Still, we will be able to gather double the crowd at the SAD rally,” said Congress leader Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was invited for Tuesday’s rally, however, would not attend it. In an bid to outnumber the gathering expected at Amarinder’s show, Sukhbir has deputed about six ministers.
“The SAD will show the PPCC president the truth, that the royal family scion has lost the trust of voters in his hometown,” Sukhbir had said recently.
The new entrant in Punjab’s political arena, the AAP will show its strength in all districts, where party units will hold protest demanding the removal of minister Tota Singh in the pesticide scam. “The AAP has decided not to be involved in the numbers game,” said AAP MP Bhagwant Mann. Mann will pay homage to the two Sikh victims of the Behbal Kalan police firing during the Bargari rally.