Faced with the possibility of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) causing a split in anti-incumbency votes in the 2017 assembly elections, newly-appointed Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh has announced that his party is open to a pre-poll alliance with like-minded parties.
The Amritsar MP was here on Wednesday to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and Durgiana Mandir along with the party’s campaign committee chairman and Rajya Sabha member Ambika Soni and 37 party MLAs.
Speaking to mediapersons later at a press conference, Amarinder, when asked about the possibility of an alliance with Manpreet Badal-led People’s Party of Punjab, said the Congress was willing to forge tie-ups with like-minded parties. Manpreet, too, had stated on Tuesday that he was open to the possibility of a tie-up with the Congress.
Hitting out at the Shiromani Akali Dal, he said the ruling party would have done better if they had counted their achievements, if any, at their “sarkari rallies” than resorting to Congress and Amarinder-bashing. On his own approach to campaigning, he said the Congress would reach out to the people with a positive agenda of development and peace for the 2017 elections.
“Today, people of Punjab want peace and development, the youth want jobs, farmers have to be saved by making agriculture remunerative, and trade and industry have to prosper to generate jobs. We are going to work towards that end,” he said, adding that the Congress would try to reach out to people more with policies and programmes rather than holding too many big rallies.
Reigniting the controversy over the functioning of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Amarinder declared to end the ‘misuse’ of religious institutions. “The next SGPC elections will see the end of the Badals’ monopoly of this institution, which was set up after a long struggle and so many sacrifices. I do not agree that just because the Badals and Avtar Singh Makkar (SGPC chief) are controlling these institutions by deceit, we should allow these to be subverted and killed. While we have to get rid of the Badals, we have to safeguard the sanctity and authority of these institutions,” he said.
He went on to reiterate that the incidents of sacrilege were ‘orchestrated’ by the Badals to divert public attention from the farmers’ agitation and other failures. “It was an attempt at controlled destabilisation in the state, which eventually went out of their control. If an independent and impartial inquiry is conducted, the buck will stop right at the Badals’ door. Therefore, the Congress is demanding a probe by a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge,” he said.
‘United show of Congress’
The PPCC chief asserted that the party was completely united in the state. On his predecessor, Partap Singh Bajwa, he said, “I have invited him to attend the December 13 Bathinda rally and sought his full cooperation, to which he has gladly agreed.”
Questions Kejri’s Haryana ties
Asked about the proposed move by a section in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) suggesting that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal may shift base to Punjab, Amarinder said, “Kejriwal belongs to Haryana, so he will first have to clarify where his loyalties will be, with Haryana or Punjab. This is necessary as most of Punjab’s disputes are with Haryana.”
‘Had opposed holding of Sarbat Khalsa’
Responding to allegations of Congress support to the November 10 radicals’ Sarbat Khalsa, Amarinder said he had unambiguously opposed the holding of such a congregation. “The ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ was an angry reaction by the people of Punjab to Badals’ failures and misrule as the state government had failed to identify and punish those guilty of sacrilege and instead implicated innocent youths and killed peaceful protesters,” he said.