Following the withdrawal of Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh from the Dhuri bypoll on Saturday, only seven of the 44 state Congress MLAs reached the meeting called by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) here on Sunday.
Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad, who chaired the meeting, was at a loss while explaining the reason behind the former chief minister not having been invited to the meeting organised to chalk out the campaign strategy.
The meeting proved a damp squib as no party MP attended it. Of those who attended, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, an Amarinder loyalist, raised the issue of the senior leader not having been invited, while MLA Brahm Mohindra, who had recently called truce with Amarinder, asked Ahmad about the Captain’s absence.
“It is the duty of the general secretary to ensure that all factions remain united for the bypoll. You must explain why Amarinder has not come and who is responsible for this,” Mohindra told Ahmad. Tripat Bajwa also slammed PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa for not having invited Amarinder. When Tript Bajwa wanted to know from the organisers about Amarinder’s absence, Ahmad tried to persuade him to sit down, but he left the meeting in protest.
However, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, without naming Amarinder, slammed the latter for his absence, saying, “It’s the party which is supreme, not the individuals.”
PPCC vice-president Lal Singh, Parminder Pinki, Navtej Cheema and Gurkirat Singh Kotli were the other MLAs present at the meeting, which was a gathering of second-rung leaders as all prominent faces of the state Congress were absent. The MLAs advocated unity in the warring factions for bolstering the Congress’s chances in the bypoll.
However, undeterred by Amarinder’s absence, Bajwa assigned duties to workers and asked them to work hard for the Congress’s victory.
Later, talking to reporters, Ahmad said Amarinder would campaign in Dhuri as he had spoken to him. There was a communication gap and the rift had been created by the media, Ahmad said, adding that the decision to appoint former Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla and Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi as election incharges was taken by the high command.
Amarinder had withdrawn from the campaign, alleging that Bajwa had not extended an invitation to him. The former chief minister had claimed that Bajwa had deliberately ignored him while inviting other leaders for the campaign.
Capt will join campagin: Barnala
The Barnala family is hopeful that Amarinder would join the campaign. “Our ties with the royal family go back four generations. I can assure you that Amarinder will campaign for Simar Pratap,” said former MLA Gaganjeet Singh Barnala, father of the Congress-backed Sanjha Morcha candidate. “We are in constant touch with him and he will surely visit Dhuri to campaign for Simar, who is like a grandson to him,” Gaganjeet said.