As Punjab heads to polls, the opposition, Congress, is on a roll. The party’s nightlong siege of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s official residence in Chandigarh continued on Friday with Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh joining the protesting MLAs and leaders.
From outside the CM’s besieged residence, Amarinder announced his own Dussehra — asking partymen to burn ‘Chitta’ Ravan across all 117 assembly constituencies. The party legislators and leaders are protesting over the arrest of a Youth Congress leader and ‘framing’ of attempt-to-murder and kidnapping charges against its five other leaders after a violent clash between activists of the Youth Akali Dal and Congress on Dussehra eve in Ludhiana over effigy of ‘Chitta’ Ravan. ‘Chitta’ is a colloquial term for drugs in Punjab and the ‘Chitta’ Ravan effigy, says the Congress, was made to symbolise the demon of drug menace.
Though his residence is a no-protest zone, CM Badal had to sneak out from the backdoor to leave for his native village in Muktsar. On Thursday, he had rushed the director general of police Suresh Arora to Ludhiana and asked him to submit a report in three days, but the Congress refused to lift the sit-in, demanding transfer of Ludhiana police commissioner Jatinder Aulakh, suspension of ADCP4 Jaswinder Singh and cases against Youth Akali Dal activists who attacked Congressmen.
Asking Akalis why they were so touchy about ‘Chitta’ Ravan, Amarinder said, “Is it your guilty conscience that gets pricked and causes you to get goose bumps over the very mention of chitta?
“By resorting to violence against burning of the ‘Chitta’ Ravan, the Akalis have actually admitted to their guilt. Mark my words, this is just the beginning. We will actually destroy the ‘Chitta’ Ravan in its entirety in the state,” he said.
Nearly seven Congress MLAs led by CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu had spent the night on ‘durries’ (mats) spread outside the CM residence. By Friday morning, a dozen MLAs had joined the sit-in. “We had to arrange quilts as temperature dipped considerably during the night. Such protests are the best way to corner the government as people talk about it,” MLA Kuljit Nagra said.
Amarinder announced the protest would continue indefinitely irrespective of whether Badal is present inside his residence. Bittu asked him to ‘gherao’ Ludhiana police commissioner on October 15 (Saturday). Punjab affairs in-charge and AICC general secretary Asha Kumari also joined the protest.
Amarinder left the protest dropping the same threat that he had when he stormed a police station in Gurdaspur on Wednesday. “On forming the government, I will take stern action against all police officers who are acting at the behest of Akalis,” he said.