The Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will hold parallel rallies in rival bastions in the state on December 15.
Capt Amarinder Singh will formally take over as the state party chief at a rally to be held in Bathinda, while SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal will hold a rally at Patiala’s Civil Aviation Club.
SAD secretary Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The SAD will hold a parallel rally in Amarinder’s home town and the turnout will be double that of the Congress rally at Bathinda.” The party has asked minister Surjit Singh Rakhra to oversee the arrangements.
Amarinder, who anticipates a turnout of over one lakh people at the Bathinda rally, on Thursday held a meeting with Malwa leaders saying the Bathinda rally would have double the gathering at the recent Akali rally held at the same venue.
Amarinder has deputed state party vice-president Lal Singh as in-charge of the rally, while former Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar and Sukhjinder Randhawa have been deputed to take care of rival factions, apart from ensuring a decent gathering from each constituency.
Amarinder claimed that the Akali rally at Bathinda had around 50,000 people, that too including people from Haryana and Rajasthan, besides nearly 10,000 Punjab policemen in civil dress. Amarinder said, “There will be no outsider at the Congress rally. The entire gathering will be from Malwa. I hope the turnout will be double that of the earlier Akali rally. People living in the 60-km radius of Bathinda only will attend the rally as we want to see the turnout to assess our strengths and weaknesses in each constituency.”
To ensure that no one forges the numbers from their respective areas, every leader will be allotted a separate parking space, where only his vehicles will be parked. The gathering with each leader will be videographed.
Amarinder said that with his taking over the reins, AAP workers had started joining the Congress and SAD leaders would join the party in the coming days. Devinder Singh Darshi, a prominent leader from Gurdaspur, who had joined the AAP, has returned to the Congress with his supporters.
Meanwhile, a section of the Congress leaders opposed the move to invite People’s Party of Punjab president Manpreet Badal as the rally is solely a Congress function. Some leaders claimed that Manpreet is a spent force and should not be allowed to use the Congress stage for his benefit.
About extending invitation to the PPP leader, Amarinder said no decision had been made. Though Amarinder declined to call Manpreet a “spent force”, he admitted that the latter’s graph was downhill.
“The Congress wants to tie up with like-minded parties, provided their demands are reasonable and acceptable to the party,” he said.