Their houses are right opposite each other, but it took almost two decades for the gap to be bridged. Congress MP Capt Amarinder Singh walked the contentious 20 feet from his palace and broke the ice with his sworn rival, MLA Brahm Mohindra, on Wednesday, achieving another advantage in his intra-party battle against Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa.
The warmth on an otherwise chilly day came over a cup of tea — brokered by Amarinder camp’s MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa — after the erstwhile Patiala royal went from his New Moti Bagh Palace to Mohindra’s house. Both later declared, “Forget the past.”
This comes just three days before Captain’s rally in his Lok Sabha segment Amritsar pegged as much against Bajwa as against the SAD-BJP alliance. Captain had announced the ‘lalkar’ (challenge) rally — initially to clash with a since-cancelled rally of BJP president Amit Shah in the same city on January 22 — after a luncheon recently when an overwhelming majority of the party’s MLAs pledged support to him. Even after that lunch meet, Captain had sent emissaries to get support from Mohindra, one of his most prominent and vocal critics in the party.
On Wednesday, though, neither of them commented on whether Mohindra would attend the rally. Bajwa had sought to put the rally under the “PPCC umbrella” but it now remains a show of strength of Amarinder, who is the deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha.
Mohindra and the former chief minister had been friends, but the relationship soured in 1997 when Amarinder was with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), as his protégé KK Sharma contested as an independent against Mohindra, contributing to his defeat to the Akali candidate. After returning to the Congress in 1998, Amarinder sidelined three-time Patiala MLA Mohindra from his traditional seat, forcing him to shift to Samana, where he lost. During the 2002-07 regime, Mohindra remained out in the cold even as the Congress led by Amarinder enjoyed power.
In 2012, Mohindra, considered close to the Congress high command, managed to get the ticket from Patiala-rural, forcing Captain’s son Raninder Singh to contest from Samana where he faced a humiliating defeat.
After Wednesday’s icebreaker that lasted around an hour, Mohindra assured Amarinder of support in his fight against the SAD and BJP “within party discipline”.
He put that rider he would toe the high command line, and that Amarinder must talk to the senior leadership in Delhi about any issues. This also signaled that that the Amritsar rally is against the wishes of the high command, even though Amarinder had said he would invite party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the “anti-drugs campaign launch”. On Mahindra’s contention, Amarinder stressed, “I am also a disciplined soldier and will not go against the wishes of the party high command.”
“It’s a friendly gesture by Amarinder, who asked for my support on the drug issue and against the misrule of the Akalis. I reciprocated. After all, I am all for strengthening the Congress in Punjab,” Mohindra told the media. Amarinder claimed he had never had any problem with Mohindra: “There was some confusion that now stands resolved… We are friends.”