In a curious twist to Punjab’s political history, a “Badal” may soon be officially in the Congress. People’s Party of Punjab president Manpreet Badal, the estranged nephew of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, is likely to merge his fledgling party into the Congress in the run-up to the 2017 polls.
Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said the PPP is likely to merge into the Congress.
“Even before taking over as the state unit president, I had said all secular parties should come together to topple the SAD-BJP regime. We will welcome Manpreet into the Congress fold. But the stage now has moved beyond talks of coalition. By merging the PPP into the Congress, there will be no wrangling over number of seats and candidates of both will get equal opportunity,” Amarinder told HT.
Manpreet had on Tuesday said he was in talks with the Congress. Though not ruling out the possibility of a merger, he had, however, remained non-committal on if a decision in this regard had been taken.
Speculations are rife that Manpreet met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at New Delhi recently along with Amarinder and the three are slated to meet again this week to finalise the arrangement.
Manpreet, who will be skipping the Maghi Mela conference this time, had been busy holding meetings with his party’s central committee and district office-bearers on possibility of a merger.
Meeting point: Poll defeats, AAP
Though Manpreet likes to put common agenda and ideology as the meeting ground between the PPP and the Congress, the merger will be more out of political exigency, The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as a third and formidable contender in Punjab’s poll scene and electoral setbacks in the 2012 assembly polls and later in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections has forced both the Congress and the PPP to scout for allies.
After failing to win a single seat in the 2012 elections, Manpreet had contested the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat on the Congress symbol and nearly ambushed Badal’s daughter-in-law Harsimrat Badal, had the AAP not sliced away a major chunk of votes. Though an alliance with the Congress would have helped him retain the party and its presidency, the PPP has virtually been pushed into oblivion as it lacks both money and organisational power. The AAP factor has also eroded its relevance as a third force, forcing Manpreet to give up his idealism for pragmatism. As for Amarinder, unlike 2012, the reality has finally dawned on him that the Congress alone cannot pull off a victory on the hustings.