The rift between the rival Congress factions in the state further widened on Friday as Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh withdrew from the Dhuri bypoll campaign, alleging that Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa had not extended an invitation to him.
Amarinder claimed that Bajwa had deliberately ignored him while inviting other leaders for the campaign. Amarinder's nominee Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi also opted out of being incharge for the bypoll saying there was no point in it when Bajwa had appointed another election incharge. Sodhi did this hours after Amarinder openly lashed out at Bajwa "for creating a division" in the party.
Bajwa has called a meeting of all MPs and MLAs, former MPs and MLAs besides the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) leadership at Dhuri on Sunday to assign election duties. The meeting will be presided over by Congress secretary Shakeel Ahmad.
Rana Sodhi was nominated by Amarinder while Bajwa had recommended the name of former Sangrur MP Vijay Inder Singla for the election in-charge. The high command, in an unusual move, had appointed both Sodhi and Singla as incharges.
Amarinder disapproved of the move, saying Bajwa was trying to create a dual power centre for the campaign. He also took a strong exception to the PPCC "not inviting him" for Sunday's crucial meeting, where all other senior leaders, including Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, have been invited to chalk out the campaign strategy.
Amarinder said, "Since the state party president has moved his entire office to Dhuri in an apparent bid to create two power centres for the campaign, which will confuse the party workers and supporters, it will be difficult for me to go to Dhuri."
Amarinder said he wanted to campaign in Dhuri and was there on the day of nomination, but the PPCC apparently did not want him there for reasons best known to it.
Hours after Amarinder's statement, Rana Sodhi opted out of the campaign, saying it was unprecedented that there should be two election incharges for a bypoll. "Since it will only create confusion among the cadres, I have opted out. Besides, Singla is competent to do the job," he said.
When contacted, Ahmad said he would talk to Amarinder, address his grievances and ensure that the Congress put up a united show. Sanjha Morcha candidate Simar Partap Singh Barnala is contesting the bypoll on the Congress symbol.