The two-day visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Punjab was high on symbolism as he took a train to the state and covered 8 kilometres on foot for “peace and harmony” in the state.
The main slogan underlining the visit, however, was that the Congress stood united in the state. Amid reports of impending change of guard in the state leadership, Rahul brought the warring leaders -- state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh -- together as he visited the families of the two men killed in police firing during protests against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot.
“I assure you that the Congress in Punjab will fight for you as one unit against the ruling SAD-BJP government,” he said holding the hands of the former and present state chiefs while addressing a gathering at Gurusar village.
The visit not only showcased unity between the warring Punjab factions but also a thaw in the Amarinder-Rahul ties after their two meetings in October. The former Punjab CM, in his address, hailed Rahul as the “future PM”. He, too, announced that the Congress was united and committed to “freeing Punjab from the unholy SAD-BJP nexus”.
Hinting that he might be on his way out, Bajwa, in his address, said he was ready to make any sacrifice for Punjab and the party.
Amarinder’s camp claimed the visit was a prelude to the announcement of Amarinder as the state Congress president. Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni, who is expected to get a key role as the Congress restructures its state unit in the run-up to the 2017 polls, also accompanied the party vice-president.
Rahul on Friday will breach ruling Badals’ bastion of Bathinda to woo the SAD’s other core constituency — farmers. He will visit the families of cotton farmers who committed suicide following the failure of their cotton crop due to whitefly attack.
Amarinder and Bajwa were last seen together during the filing of nomination papers of the Congress candidate during the Dhuri bypoll held in April this year.
They later led parallel campaigns and the seat that fell vacant after resignation by a Congress MLA went to the ruling Akalis.
After disembarking at Kotkapura railway station in Faridkot early in the morning, Rahul covered nearly 8 km on foot from Sarawan to Naimiwala, villages of victims Gurjeet Singh and Krishan Bhagwan, respectively. He met people and addressed two gatherings at Gurusar and Behbal Kalan on the way. He would leave for Delhi on a train from Sangrur on Friday.
Bajwa retweets Capt’s unity slogan
While his office highlighted Rahul’s unity pitch in Punjab by tweeting his statements and pictures with Amarinder and Bajwa during the padyatra, public meetings and visits to families of the deceased, interestingly, Captain’s tweet on “Congress united to fight Akali-BJP” was retweeted by Bajwa.