It’s an idea whose time had come. After first refusing to accept the dare of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal to contest against Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, state Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh seemed to have realised that it’s a masterstroke worth a shot.
Amarinder on Saturday declared to take the fight to the Badal den, Lambi, while also contesting from the home seat of Patiala. It would be the first time in the history of Punjab that a former CM will take on an incumbent one, that too in the latter’s bastion.
“I want to fight the CM on his home turf to defeat top Akali leaders responsible for destroying the state through their drugs, mafia and goonda raj, and guilty of ruining its trade, industry and agriculture. It would free Punjab from the vicious and destructive rule of the Badals,” Amarinder said at a press conference at Amritsar.
The former CM on Saturday declared that he would take the fight to the Badal den, Lambi, while also contesting from his home seat, Patiala. He later tweeted that he would make the formal announcement soon.
Have requested Congress high command to allow me to fight from Lambi so I can rid Punjab of the vicious and destructive rule of the Badals. https://t.co/4i2hP2tNDr— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) January 14, 2017
Have decided to fight Punjab Elections 2017 from Lambi. Will make it official soon— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) January 14, 2017
Who will fight Sukhbir: Bittu or Sidhu?
Meanwhile, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu has agreed to take on the CM’s son and deputy, Shiromani Akali Da (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, from Jalalabad. The Congress is, however, persuading Navjot Singh Sidhu to fight Sukhbir to further elevate its challenge.
Though Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was keen to field top guns against the ruling Badals, Amarinder had his reservations, mainly that it would confine him to one seat.
Now, behind the Congress strategy to pitch its tallest leader against CM Badal is also to checkmate the AAP, the third challenger in poll fray, which has been alleging a “Badal-Amarinder nexus”.
The Delhi CM and other AAP leaders have particularly been citing that Amarinder had opposed the transfer of investigation into the multi-crore drug scam to the CBI after alleged drug kingpin Jagdish Bhola named Sukhbir’s brother-in-law and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
The AAP has fielded former Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh against the CM, and Amarinder had called him a “small fry”.
Claim to CM’s throne
It will also be a “test by fire” for Amarinder who has not yet been named the CM face of the party to lay a claim to the throne. With other claimants such as Sidhu and Manpreet Badal for the CM’s chair in the background, Amarinder will be able to prove his pan-Punjab credentials to the high command a second time after defeating BJP’s Arun Jaitley from Amritsar in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
The move will also shore up the party’s campaign that has apparently slackened over ticket distribution. Most importantly, it will contain the Badals to their seats. Lambi is a belt dominated by Brars and Sidhus. A Sidhu by caste, the former CM may not be on an unfamiliar turf.