The short-lived unity and longstanding sharp division of leadership in the Punjab Congress has left the Barnala family in the lurch in Dhuri from where Simarpartap Singh Barnala, grandson of former chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala is contesting against the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal candidate.
Besides Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh, 35 of the 44 MLAs have conveyed that they won’t participate in the election campaign under Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa. In their absence, Bajwa has assigned duties to other second-run leaders, who so far have not reached Dhuri.
As per the poll formula between the opposition parties, the Sanjha Morcha candidate is contesting on the Congress symbol.
While the Akalis are firing all cylinders by dividing the constituency into 15 sectors and appointing a cabinet minister or an MP as the in charge of each sector, Congress leaders are missing from the scene. As per the strategy, Akalis are roping in Congress workers to storm its bastion.
While Amarinder and his camp announced to withdraw from the campaign, the Bajwa camp was also missing on Monday as the Congress chief left for Delhi to attend a meeting to plan a farmers’ rally. Only former Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla, who has been appointed as the election in charge, was seen campaigning in Dhuri. Singla, sources say, is doing this to strengthen the Congress vote bank as Dhuri which is a part of the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency from where he lost to Aam Aadmi Party’s Bhagwant Mann in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The other campaign in charge, Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, has so far not turned up in the constituency. Sources say he has also withdrawn from the campaign following Amarinder’s announcement.
Sources said Amarinder had promised that he would spend a week to campaign for Barnala, but he withdrew following a conflict with Bajwa.
Sources said that worried over the Congress’s intraparty conflict, former CM Surjit Singh Barnala on Monday called Amarinder and urged him to join the campaign. Though Amarinder did not make any commitment, he conveyed that he would not campaign under Bajwa.
He will visit the constituency if Sonia Gandhi asks him to do so.
Commenting on the absence of Congressmen in the election campaign, Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad said there was some communication gap and the Congress high command would resolve it.
On absence of MLAs and other leaders of the Amarinder camp, Ahmad said: “Some MLAs have conveyed that they have some pre-engagements, but I am hopeful that they will join the campaign.”
“We have a tie-up with the Sanja Morcha and the high command will ensure Amarinder’s participation in the campaign. I am in touch with Amarinder and the issue will be resolved soon.