Smiles have changed to frown in just a few days.
Four days ago, cop-turned-politician Paramdeep Singh Gill appeared glad during the photo-ops with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal when local legislator Joginder Pal Jain switched to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from the Congress. Now his supporters have opposed the party decision to field Jain in the assembly by-election in Moga and make him chairman of the Punjab state warehousing corporation.
More than 2,000 supporters of the former director general of police on Saturday gathered at a marriage palace in Moga. Gill said nothing in public on the party decision but his loyalists made it clear in his presence that they wanted it reviewed; else they would hurt the party's prospects in the by-election.
The discontent in the party is clear. "The Congress legislator has joined the SAD only to maintain his business," said KS Gill, former president of the municipal council of Moga. "Jain has cheated 62,000 people who voted for the Congress. The Akalis would rather trust their own senior leader, PS Gill, to win from Moga."
"Sukhbir Singh Badal has taken a good decision of inviting Jain to join the SAD but the party workers are of the opinion that Gill has a better reputation," said senior Akali leader Ranwinder Singh Pappu. "If Jain remains the party's choice, it might be hard to sway the constituency's voters, who are eager to teach him a lesson. "If the ticket goes to Gill, the SAD will win with a margin of at least 20,000 votes."
Local Akali leader Jarnail Singh Dunneke charged Jain with making a false case against him during the last election. "After joining the SAD, Jain has been trying to erase the support of Gill," he added. Addressing his supporters and members of the panchayats, block samitis and zila parishad, Gill said he welcomed Jain's joining the party but the latter had begun bad politics against his supporters. "I will run my separate party office in Moga," Gill added.