The good old days of the darbar are over. Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh will pay out of his own pocket and so will the jumbo entourage accompanying him to the US and Canada for his 22-day tour starting April 18.
But like a true-blue royal, the former Patiala scion has instructed his team not to hold fundraisers like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), though non-resident Indians (NRIs) are known to donate generously to political parties back home.
Captain’s official 15-member entourage comprises present and former state legislators and senior leaders who will reach the designated cities before him. Nearly 30 sitting MLAs and several former legislators wanted to accompany the former chief minister till he told them to pick up the tab. Many of those who can are expected to reach the cities on his itinerary on their own.
“We all are paying for our travel. Also, at a recent meeting, the 15 coordinators have been strictly told not to collect funds from NRIs and also warn them against anyone else trying to do so on behalf of the Congress. Captain Amarinder Singh is reaching out to NRIs to tell them about his agenda for Punjab, as they are opinion-makers for not just their families but even villages in Punjab. Everyone has been instructed not to demand any funds, free lunches or dinners,” MLA Sukh Sarkaria, who will be coordinating Captain’s programmes in Fresno, San Francisco and New York from May 3 to 7, told HT.
The strategy is also to contrast with the AAP, which is seeking generous contributions from the prosperous NRI community ahead of the assembly polls by asking them to sacrifice — miss a meal for their motherland or carpool to work to save fuel expenses — or host a charity show. Prominent party leaders such as Lok Sabha member Bhagwant Mann have been taking frequent tours to participate in fundraisers. The AAP is also using social media and platforms such as Google Hangout to mop up party funds from NRIs.
Starting from Chicago, the Punjab Congress chief will fly to Toronto and Vancover in Canada before returning back to the US on April 30 for his interaction with the Punjabi diaspora at Los Angeles. The eight-city tour will end on May 10 at Chicago and will be coordinated by Captain’s other loyalists, including MLAs Kewal Dhillon, Rana Gurjit, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, Tripat Rajinder Bajwa, Guriqbal Kaur, Sangat Singh Gilzian and Balbir Sidhu, besides a few former MLAs and youth leaders.