Backed by about 25 of the 44 sitting Congress MLAs in Punjab, Amritsar MP and deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh addressed a series of well-attended election rallies here on Monday.
In the absence of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Partap Singh Bajwa, who along with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar had gone to New Delhi to attend a party meet, the Captain hit the campaign trail in Dhuri, canvassing for party-backed Sanjha Morcha candidate Simar Pratap Singh Barnala.
Addressing the gathering during the rallies, Amarinder lashed out at the Badal family. "Badals, who once had a small land holding, are now building a series of five-star and seven-star hotels, and investing money abroad. From where has all this money come? It's your (public) money, which Badals have appropriated. Punish them for the loot of public money, otherwise the Badals would ruin Punjab," he said, while touching upon issues of unemployment, rising drug addiction, land and sand mafia, and growing debt on the state.
Amarinder accused chief minister Parkash Singh Badal of mortgaging interests of the state for his personal gains. "Badal has forgotten farmers' problems and meekly followed the BJP's diktats by supporting the anti-farmer land acquisition bill of the NDA regime," the former CM said, questioning why Badal had maintained 'criminal' silence over the Food Corporation of India's (FCI's) decision to reduce the purchase of wheat by 50%.
On the river waters issue, Amarinder said Badal must be having some hidden deal with the BJP, otherwise Union water resources minister Uma Bharti would not have made claims of resolving the issue to give more water to Haryana. "I dare Bharti to discuss the issue and take any step against Punjab. We will not allow her to enter Punjab," the Captain said.
Turning to local issues, Amarinder told the people here how the Akalis had ignored Dhuri for three years. "Only now have they woken up to make promises in view of the byelection," he said, adding that these were all false promises.
The Captain said the time had come for the people to teach the Akali-BJP government a lesson. "Now the ball is in your court. If you want to punish the Badals for their misrule, then vote against them," he said, adding that the Dhuri byelection would set the tone for the 2017 assembly elections and mark the beginning of the end of the Akali-BJP regime. "It will sound the death knell for the Akalis," he declared.
Earlier, Amarinder entered Dhuri at the head of a long convoy of vehicles. The party leaders included about 28 MLAs and about 50 former MLAs and ministers. He held meetings at Meemsa, Ghanauri and Kanjli villages.
Partap Bajwa's brother Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa also shared the dais with Amarinder at a rally.
Among those present during Amarinder's rallies were MLAs Kewal Dhillon, Brahm Mohindra, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Ramanjit Singh Sikki, Balbir Sidhu, Karan Kaur Brar, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Hardayal Kamboj, Rajneesh Babbi, Sanghat Singh Gilzian, Gur Iqbal Kaur, Mohammad Sadiq, Navtej Cheema, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Joginder Singh Panjgraian, OP Soni, Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Sukhbinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria, Amrik Dhillon, Sunder Shyam Arora and Aruna Chaudhary.