The Congress is all set to celebrate the formation of its government in Punjab during the Thursday’s Baisakhi fair at Talwandi Sabo. The political conferences during the event will also test how aggressively the opposition — Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — can take on chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s show of strength.
While Amarinder will be announcing his government’s road map to revive the state’s economy, the day will be as significant for finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal to portray himself as the undisputed leader of Malwa after winning the Bathinda assembly seat.
Both the AAP and SAD are also expected to raise the issue of farm loan waiver and corner Amarinder on his poll promise to create a drug-free Punjab within a month.
Congress workers were busy on Wednesday setting up a large stage to accommodate about 300 delegates, including ministers, legislators and other party leaders. Former MLAs Ajit Inder Singh Mofar and Darshan Singh Kotfatta and Captain’s other confidants including Rampura Phul MLA Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Khushbaaz Jatana are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a massive crowd at the conference.
“Our teams are visiting far-flung areas in entire Malwa region (to bring in crowds) for Thursday’s event,” Captain Sandeep Sandhu, officer on special duty in the CM’s office, told HT.
After the AAP’s central leadership deciding to skip the event due to municipal polls in Delhi, the party’s star campaigner and Lok Sabha member Bhagwant Mann also confirmed his unavailability. The party’s conference is crucial for its 20 MLAs to take on the Congress regime and establish themselves as a strong opposition.
“No, I am not attending (the Baisakhi fair),” Mann told HT, citing “important meetings” as the reason for his absence. The Sangrur MP said he had to also prepare for meetings of parliamentary standing committees of which he is a member.
Leader of opposition HS Phoolka told HT over phone: “There is no need of Delhi leadership on Thursday.”
Phoolka said all 20 AAP MLAs will be on the stage from where the party’s state leadership will announce its next plan of action and analyse the work done by the month-old Congress government towards fulfilling its poll promises.
The SAD cadres, meanwhile, are “in high spirits” to listen to their leader Parkash Singh Badal, said former Talwandi Sabo MLA Jeet Mohinder Sidhu, who lost the recent elections to the AAP’s Baljinder Kaur.
Former Akali MLA Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, who lost this time from Sardulgarh, and other senior party leaders including Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Sikandar Singh Maluka are overseeing the preparations to ensure a massive gathering at the SAD conference.
Questioned if the event will be any different for the Akalis after their recent poll drubbing, Sidhu said: “These things keep happening; nothing has changed for us (SAD).”
A day after Baisakhi, the Congress also plans to celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar at a state-level function in Jalandhar. The occasion will give the party leadership a chance to portray itself as the champion of Dalit cause.