As the popularity graph of ruling Shiromani Akali Dal sees a free fall in Punjab in the wake of incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and resulting protests, the state’s main opposition party, the Congress, has failed to cash in on the opportunity to bolster its image.
Though both Punjab Congress factions --- one led by state party chief Punjab Partap Bajwa and another by Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh --- are trying to be on the forefront of the party’s attack on the ruling Akalis, the party has not been able to bury bickering within the unit at this crucial juncture.
The battle of one-upmanship between the past and present chiefs goes on with each demanding imposition of the President’s rule in the state through their own show of strength.
After Bajwa reached trouble-torn Faridkot and Kotkapura following police firing that killed two, Amarinder, too, followed suit.
The next day, Amarinder held a show of strength at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Accompanied by nearly 20 MLAs and other senior leaders, Captain prayed for peace and brotherhood. Talking to the mediapersons after the visit, he reiterated his demand for imposition of the President’s rule.
Bajwa on Wednesday, too, echoed the same demand at a press conference here. Flanked by five MLAs, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu and former Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, Bajwa pressed for dismissal of the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government.
He later went on to announce a three-day pilgrimage that would also cover a dera and the arch bishop in Jalandhar before culminating in the holy city of Amritsar.
Congress Legislative Party leader Sunil Jakhar, a Amarinder loyalist, on his part, had called on the Punjab governor on Tuesday to demand President’s rule with some MLAs.
On being asked why the party wasn’t speaking in one voice on the issue, Bajwa said they were all working for a common cause.
“We are all saying the same thing. We are demanding that this government should be sacked as it has whipped up communal tension by design to deflect attention from the angry protests by farmers. And we demand that the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib be probed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court and not a retired judge. We also trash Badals’ theory of hand of external forces behind these incidents,” he added.
Bajwa, who had demanded President’s rule earlier during his visit to Faridkot and through press statements, denied he was holding a show of strength, “The situation in Punjab is grave. The media should desist from terming it as one,” he said.
‘Even MP’s turban not safe in Punjab’
Accompanied by Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu, Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa said the turban of the MP was tossed by police during the protest over farmer issues in Bathinda. “Even an MP’s turban is not safe in Punjab. Those who talk big about ‘Panthic’ issues, they are the ones who are actually demeaning the ‘Panth’,” he said.