The stage is set for Captain Amarinder Singh’s coronation as Punjab Congress president on Tuesday in Bathinda, with party leaders making last-ditch efforts to mobilise the cadre and spruce up the rally venue on the Goniana road.
It’s the site where the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had organised the first of its Sadbhawna rallies on November 23. The venue, then a fortress with hundreds of police guards, now has fewer cops, and the traffic-management and parking arrangements, then looked after by the civil administration, now are left to the Congress leaders.
Call it the fear of annoying political bosses or something else but the government officials are avoiding being caught in photographs at the Congress rally venue. Bathinda senior superintendent of police (SSP) Swapan Sharma shied away from the camera when discussing something with Amarinder’s confidant Captain Sandeep Singh Sandhu at the venue. “What are you doing?” he asked the photographer.
“Ask them not to click pictures,” he told his junior officers. Police asked the lensman if he had permission to shoot, and when he asked if photography was banned on the spot, the SSP drove away in a huff.
During the preparations for the November 23 Akali rally, the same cops, the SSP included, had posed happily for photographs. Contacted later on telephone, the officer said he had security reasons to avoid being clicked. “It will expose the police deployment plan and compromise VIP security. The higher officials had once sought an explanation over similar pictures,” he said, adding that the police had done its duty of deploying security and traffic cops. During the SAD rally, hundreds of cops were mobilised from other districts. For the Congress rally, it’s only cops from Bathinda, the SSP has said.
“The administration is nowhere in sight, even though many important people will attend the rally,” said Congress leader Sandeep Sandhu. “Fewer cops have been given to us to regulate traffic, so 200 Youth Congress volunteers will have to fill in,” said Punjab Youth Congress president Amarpreet Singh Lally. Bathinda deputy commissioner Basant Garg, however, said the administration would make all traffic, parking, and healthcare arrangements.
Congress workers from Bathinda, Barnala, Mansa, Muktsar, Moga and Faridkot district are expected to attend the rally.