A day after estranged nephew and now-Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal expressed his wish to contest against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh said on Thursday, “If he (Manpreet) thinks he is ready, the Congress is ready to give him the ticket from the CM’s constituency, Lambi.”
Manpreet had on Wednesday said that it would be “a matter of pride” for him if the party asked him to contest the assembly polls due in 2017 against his the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch. “He will have full support of the Congress... I am sure he will win from there,” Amarinder added while interacting with the media on the sidelines of a ‘Coffee with Captain’ programme at a local banquet.
Manpreet had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Bathinda on the Congress symbol against the now-Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal — who is the daughter-in-law of CM Badal and wife of Manpreet’s cousin, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal — but lost. Yet, he had brought down considerably the victory margin of Harsimrat from over 1 lakh votes in 2009 to 19,395 votes. Before that, in 2012, Manpreet’s father and the CM’s younger brother, Gurdas Singh Badal, had contested from Lambi on the ticket of Manpreet’s since-merged-with-Congress People’s party of Punjab (PPP) and lost. Manpreet had contested as PPP candidate in 2012 from Gidderbaha and also Maur, but lost from both segments as his party drew a blank.
Meanwhile, Amarinder also mentioned that besides the Manpreet-versus-CM contest, Sangrur’s local local MP, Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had also expressed his desire to contest against deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal: “These elections would be more interesting than ever... a triangular match that would be watched by all with interest.” To a question, he reiterated that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had contested the last two elections from all seats but won none, and it was “just spoiling votes and helping the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)”.
As for the Congress yet having not set up a manifesto committee for the elections due in less than a year, the former CM said it would be announced by party chief Sonia Gandhi. He said the party had planned teams of experts in different fields who would make reports and send to the manifesto committee.
Badal should retire
He also verbally bashed the SAD and Badals, saying that the SAD-BJP government had “made all the youth of the state unemployed”. He added, “Badal and his deputy both are liars... Badal should retire now; it’s time for him to sit at home.” On the drug menace, he termed a “formality” the CM’s directions to officials to start a campaign against it. Youth Congress leader Rahul Inder Singh Sidhu, son of former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, said, “Badal has made every possible effort to make the youth unemployed and put them on the path of drugs.”
Apart from the speeches, the ‘Coffee with Captain’ programme, which started off well in the beginning as an interaction between Captain Amarinder and the audience, spiralled into chaos when some party workers indulged in hooliganism upon not getting a chance to speak to the leader. Many of those who raised issues with Amarinder took too long to express their views and a few, despite raising hands, did not get a chance. Some party workers left the event much before the conclusion, saying that they could listen to Captain in rallies also. “If they don’t want us to speak to him, then why have they called us here?” said Bachhitter Singh, a party worker.