Former chief minister and Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh may succeed in drawing a large crowd to his Lalkar rally scheduled for Saturday but much of its charm was lost the day the BJP called off its anti-drug rally to be held in Amritsar the same day.
With the BJP now no longer in the arena, Amarinder, the deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, will use the rally as a show of strength to send a message to the party high command about his popularity.
The BJP excused itself from the Captain’s lalkar (challenge), citing the announcement of the Delhi assembly polls, claiming that its chief Amit Shah, who was to be the party’s main speaker, would be busy in the elections. The Congress had planned to expose the “double standards” of the BJP on the drugs issue -- siding with the Akalis in the state assembly and crying hoarse outside.
Rally coordinator and MLA Rana Gurjit Singh claims that it will be the largest ever crowd to have assembled in Punjab in recent years, which would serve as a “referendum” against the BJP and the Akalis.
Rana also accused the state government of creating hurdles in the rally and trying to intimidate people so that they didn’t attend it, but so far no such complaints had been received by the police. The Congress in Amritsar is concentrating on ferrying people from all nine assembly segments that fall in the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency which Amarinder represents.
The Captain’s loyalists from Malwa claim that they are ferrying almost 20,000 people from the Malwa districts to the rally. “We are excited about the rally. We have been mobilising workers across the Malwa. I am expecting a participation of 25,000 to 30,000 workers from Malwa at the Captain’s rally,” said former Rampura Phul MLA Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is also Malwa zone vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). Bhucho MLA Ajaib Singh Bhatti has been also working with Kangar to get maximum crowd, especially from Bathinda and Mansa districts.
Leader of opposition and a leader from Malwa, Sunil Jakhar, has confirmed that he would take along around 2,000 supporters from his assembly constituency. Over 1,000 Congress workers from Gurdaspur assembly constituency would participate in the rally, claimed Raman Bahl, PPCC member.
Activists from the party’s Ludhiana unit, including president (rural) Malkiat Singh Dakha, former president (urban) Pawan Dewan, and former MLA Jaspal Singh Khangura, are expected to attend the rally. Dewan, who was “unceremoniously” removed by state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa around three months ago, has arranged five buses to ferry workers to the rally venue.