A wild report on Tuesday caused disarray in the state Congress camp. Within hours of a private Punjabi television news channel reporting that Jagmeet Singh Brar, member of the Congress working committee (CWC), would switch over to the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) at Malout in the presence of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, a mini exodus had begun in Brar's state opposition party.
Sukhbir was in the Muktsar district town to attend two political functions where some local Congress leaders and workers were also expected. The new flash about Brar joining the SAD sent even the intelligence agencies into shock for a few hours until the leader clarified that he had no plans of moving.
Former legislator Baldev Singh Balamgarh, who was rebel Congress candidate from Malout in the last state elections, was the first to join the SAD in the presence of Sukhbir.
Congress leaders Parminder Kaur, former zila parishad chairperson; Amarjit Singh Jandwala, former chairman of the market committee of Malout; Ranjit Singh Brar, former chairman of the block samiti of Gidderbaha; Amar Singh, former chairman of the spinning mills association; and Shinderpal Singh also entered the Akali fold with their supporters.
Sukhbir assured the defectors of full respect and status in his party. "There is complete demoralisation in the Congress," he said, "Its workers are scared by the fact their party has never returned to power in the states where it lost two consecutive assembly elections."
The Akalis on stage had only claimed that some of these defectors were close relatives of Brar, and somehow it became breaking news that Brar was joining the SAD. Brar also had to clarify that none of his relatives had had been to the Sukhbir event.