Hoping to surprise Narendra Modi, the state Congress president took own party leaders and 234 busloads of farmers they had taken to Delhi for a ride.
They had got there on his assurance to meet United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The hidden agenda, they got to know later, was to embarrass the Gujarat chief minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate, who was holding own rally in Delhi. There was no "special announcement" of relief package for flood-hit Malwa and other parts of Punjab, as Bajwa had promised.
The farmers and Congress workers packed two buses each from all 117 assembly segments and arrived at Majnu Ka Tilla in the morning. There, Bajwa's core team told them the plan rather was to protest against the eviction of Sikh farmers from the Kutch in a demonstration outside Modi's rally venue of Japanese Park in Rohini. The venue was then moved to Gujarat Bhawan, where, in a major embarrassment to Bajwa, only a few of all redirected buses reached. The rest of the gathering drove back to Punjab, feeling cheated.
"We had brought the farmers from the far-flung areas of Majha, hoping Bajwa had got us a special deal from the union government. Instead, it turned out be damp squib when we were told to gherao Modi," said a senior Congress legislator.
Police stopped many buses on way to Gujarat Bhawan. Even Bajwa's brother, Fateh Jang Bajwa, who was commandeering the fleet, couldn't get to the venue. "It was all bad management," said a Congress MLA.
Punjab's leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar and many other senior Congress leaders were at the venue when the dharna was called off. Heavy rain also poured cold water on the plan.
Many leaders were disgruntled. "It was shameful that Bajwa used Sonia's name to gather a crowd. I think it was a stunt to improve his points in Delhi by taking on Modi in the national capital," stated a Congress legislator close to former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Bajwa was unavailable for comments. State Congress spokesman Sukhpal Khaira, however, said: "Hiding the real purpose of the Delhi visit was a deliberate plan, to not let the administration know and surprise Modi. We have succeeded in that."
The surprised lot
The state Congress leaders at the Delhi dharna included Sunil Jakhar, Vijay Inder Singla, Laal Singh, OP Soni, Tarlochan Singh, Charanjit Singh Channi, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Ashwani Sekhri, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Randeep Singh Nabha, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Navtej Singh Cheema, Paraminder Singh Pinky, Surinder Dawar, Rakesh Pandey, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Brahm Mohindra, Guriqbal Kaur, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Rana Gurjit Singh, Raj Kumar Verka, Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa, Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Sukhjit Singh Lohgarh.