A week after his nomination as the Congress challenger in the high-stake poll battle in Amritsar, Capt Amarinder Singh rode into the holy city to a rousing reception by enthusiastic party workers and vowed to defeat his rival-BJP stalwart Arun Jaitely, mocking him as ‘bachha’ (child).
An array of senior Congress leaders put up a united face – a rare spectacle in the party for a long time – at the former chief minister’s impressive road show that took seven hours to cover the 80-km distance from Jalandhar to Amritsar. Shouts of ‘Captain balle balle and ‘Captain aa gaya, Captain chhaa gaya (Captain has arrived, Captain has taken over) rent the air.
He also made it clear that during the month-long election campaign, he would not remain confined to Amritsar but would visit every constituency. Confident of his victory, Amarinder claimed the Congress would win all 13 seats in Punjab.
However, outside the Clock Tower entrance to the Golden Temple, a few youths waved black flags as Amarinder and his senior colleagues entered the shrine. The demonstrators said they were protesting as Amarinder belonged to the party that was responsible for Operation Bluestar.
Standing atop an open truck, the former chief minister waved to his party workers who exhibited a renewed sense of confidence which had been missing after the loss of the party in the last assembly elections.
The united face of the Congress was on display during the reception organised for welcoming Amarinder for the first time after the party picked him to take on Jaitley. Such was the enthusiasm among the Congress leaders and workers that it took almost four hours for Amarinder’s cavalcade of four trucks and a couple of cars to cover the 8-km route from New Amritsar to the Durgiana Mandir. Workers lined up along the route to chant pro-Amarinder slogans as they held placards proclaiming him as the ‘Lion of Punjab’.
Senior Congress leaders accompanying Amarinder seemed to have set aside their differences as they made no attempt to outwit one another to prove their individual loyalties to their leader. Interestingly, a large number of local leaders also turned up to accord Amarinder a welcome befitting a ‘maharaja’.
A number of them had gone into ‘hibernation’ after the loss in the assembly polls in 2012 but with Amarinder in the poll fray, they have all resurfaced.