State Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa led thousands of workers in holding a protest march from Badal, native village of the chief minister, to Maan village on Monday.
But there was no announcement of any further programme to get justice for the villagers, who are allegedly facing the onslaught of police. This not only failed to enthuse the local Congress workers, but also to evoke a positive response from the gathered people.
Bajwa, accompanied by senior party leaders, reached the house of Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, cousin and rival of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, around 12.15pm. The house shares a wall with the ancestral house of Badals, where thousands of angry workers from Lambi braved the scorching heat to launch a protest against the SAD-BJP government.
While addressing the gathering, Bajwa said, "The soul of Aurangzeb lives in the chief minister, who claims to copy Maharaja Ranjit Singh. If Sukhbir Badal has read history, he must know that neither of Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah and Aurangzeb stayed here forever as people threw them out."
Bajwa alleged, "Lambi is a den of notorious criminals. There is complete jungle raj. The chief minister has turned a blind eye to the misdemeanours of Sukhbir Badal, who is not allowing people to elect even sarpanches from the opposition parties. It is a planned conspiracy," while referring to the rigging in the rural bodies polls.
"People had killed Gadaffi by dragging him behind a vehicle. The same will happen here. It takes time to make people stand against the government when all government machinery is working to suppress them," he said.
"We do not want to encourage violence. But we will stand by party workers who are suffering at the hands of police. They have booked unidentified people only to force them to join the Akali Dal. Police should first register cross-FIRs against those who had come to the village to capture the booths. If some Congressman has committed a crime, he should be treated as per law."
"There is no hope of justice under Badals, but we will fight it out," he said.
On a demand by party workers to march on foot towards Mann village, Bajwa obliged and led the Congress leaders and workers to cover the 3km distance on foot, while raising anti-Badal government slogans.
At the village, Bajwa visited various houses to hear the grievances of residents, who narrated the tales of violence on May 19 and the police backlash after the incident.
Baljinder Kaur, whose father and brothers are on the run, asked Bajwa why nobody from the state Congress had turned up during the past week to meet the suffering families.
The village residents are facing alleged police repression for the past one week after the Congress and Akali supporters clashed in the village on May 19 after the Akalis allegedly tried to capture a booth in the village falling under Lambi constituency during the zila parishad and block samiti elections.
Prominent among those who accompanied Bajwa were MPs Ravneet Singh Bittu, Sukhdev Singh Libra and Santosh Chaudhri; MLAs Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Joginder Singh Panjgrain, Karan Kaur Brar and Parminder Singh Pinki.
It was a symbolic protest, says Bajwa
Maan (Muktsar): State Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa called it a 'symbolic' protest against the alleged repression by Akalis in this village. He strongly condemned the alleged intimidation of about 150 Congress workers in the village, alleging that this was done at the behest of the chief minister.
While talking to reporters, Bajwa said he would lead a delegation and take up the matter with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, when asked about the further programme or agitation. He said they would move court and ensure free legal aid to the victims.
When asked about his delayed visit to the village, Bajwa said, "I did not want to sabotage the dharna by the People's Party of Punjab, so I didn't visit the place on May 23. Many such incidents took place in different parts of Punjab and I had to go there also. I was also called to Delhi. I cannot reach everywhere in a single day."
When asked about the long-term planning of the party on the issue, he said, "Nothing would affect Badals even if we keep on sitting on dharna for a month. It is a symbolic protest," he said.
When asked if an alliance with the PPP is possible in the parliamentary elections, he said, "Nothing is ruled out in love and war. Anything is possible."
Talking of Jagmeet Brar's Sunday visit to the village, Bajwa said, "He is a party leader and there is nothing wrong if he visited the village. Ideally, he should have joined us today."
Dissidence in Cong comes to fore
Just before Bajwa had to address the meeting, youth Congress leader Randheer Singh Dheera took hold of the mike and openly expressed his resentment saying, "We are going through a tough time. But nobody stands with us in the Congress except Mahesh Inder Singh Badal and Gurmit Singh Khudian."