In May 1986, then Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala’s government had been reduced to a minority after some ministers quit the cabinet ranks. Among them was his agriculture minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Come 2016, and a splinter Akali faction — the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) — now headed by Barnala’s wife, Surjit Kaur Barnala, is waiting for Amarinder to green-light its “merger” into the Congress.
In a meeting of the SAD (Longowal) last week, president Surjit Kaur was authorised by the party to formalise talks with the Congress. Her son, Gaganjit Barnala, met Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab, Shakeel Ahmad, at New Delhi on Monday in this regard.
The move comes soon after Manpreet Singh Badal-led People’s Par ty of Punjab (PPP) merged into the Congress last month. Manpreet had stitched together a third front — Sanjha Morcha — with Surjit Singh Barnala as its patron during the 2012 Punjab polls but it had crumbled after he contested the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat in 2014 on a Congress symbol.
Barnala’s grandson, Simarpartap, too, had contested the Dhuri bypoll last year on a Congress symbol. Both Manpreet and Simarpartap had, however, failed to clinch a victory.
Gaganjit, when contacted, did not specify if the party was seeking a merger or alliance but said SAD (L) leaders would soon be meeting Amarinder, who has given a call for a grand alliance of like-minded parties.
“He is the only one who can bail out Punjab from the misrule of the Akalis. We have to all come together in the interest of Punjab. We will be also talking to the BSP and Left parties to join the alliance,” he told HT, adding that the party sees no threat in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as Punjab would vote for good governance.
Though Amarinder welcomed the move, he said it will all depend on what the party wants in terms of seats. “There is no problem at all if it is an unconditional merger like PPP as Manpreet had made no demands. We can try to accommodate concerns of parties as and when the time comes,” he added.
Also read: Merger with Congress: Key PPP men opt out