The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday poached Punjab Congress vice-president Surinderpal Singh Sibia and declared the former MLA will contest the assembly elections from Barnala segment.
“Sibia’s decision to join the SAD has given a major boost to poll prospects of the party... Now, in Sangrur and Barnala, the Congress is left with a face without base,” deputy chief minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a crowded press conference at his residence here, while welcoming the Congress leader into the SAD fold.
“Sibia was a key pillar of the Congress in Sangrur district. His entry in the SAD is the last nail in the Congress’ coffin in Sangrur,” SAD stalwart and Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said, as Sibia repeatedly credited industrialist Rajinder Gupta of the Trident group for having persuaded him to join Akalis.
Gupta, who is also a SAD general secretary, flew from Delhi in a chartered plane to attend Sibia’s induction ceremony that was delayed by over an hour to help the industrialist attend it.
Gupta admitted having toyed with the idea of contesting the assembly poll on SAD ticket from Barnala segment. “My health does not permit me to contest election... I cannot devote time. I had told this to Sukhbir Badal,” Gupta said while putting his one hand over the heart.
Buoyed by this ‘catch’, Sukhbir dubbed the Congress a “sinking ship”, saying Sibia joining the SAD clearly indicated that honest leaders have no place in the Congress, where “sycophancy and factionalism” ruled the roost.
“I announce that Surinderpal Singh Sibia will be the SAD candidate from Barnala,” Sukhbir said. The SAD didn’t have a strong candidate from Barnala segment.
“In Congress everybody aspires to be the chief minister and nobody wants to see Captain Amarinder Singh as the CM. Lobbying and plotting is on the rise in Congress,” the SAD chief said, while referring to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as “self-destructive gun”.
SIBIA SLAMS AMARINDER
Accusing Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh of repeatedly damaging his political career and denying him the ticket, Sibia — who won the 2007 assembly elections from Sangrur segment — said: “Once I was dislodged from Sangrur and later from Barnala at the behest of Capt Amarinder, who wanted to politically rehabilitate two businessmen with deep pockets.” He claimed the Congress wanted to field him from Sunam, instead of Sangrur, this time. “I refused and decided to snap my 40 years ties with the Congress,” he said.