Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Captain Amarinder Singh has invited party vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the December 15 Bathinda rally, where he will formally take charge as the state party chief.
However, the Congress has decided not to invite People’s Party of Punjab chief Manpreet Singh Badal for the rally. Reason: A section of the party leadership, particularly in the Malwa region, is not in favour of joining hands with the former Akali leader or inducting him into the Congress, even as these leaders don’t want Manpreet to use the party’s stage for his ‘revival’.
Sources said Amarinder had sent an invite to Rahul, but the latter was yet to take a call due to his busy schedule. But the Congress has already started making arrangements as per requirements of the special protection group (SPG), which guards Rahul.
“Though we got a bit late in inviting him, we are still hopeful that Rahul will make it,” said a party leader involved in finalising arrangements for the Bathinda rally.
Amarinder remained unavailable for comment. When contacted, Congress secretary Harish Chaudhary said: “A decision will be taken by the party vice-president after returning from his Assam visit,” adding that Rahul usually did not attend such installation ceremonies.
Meanwhile, the Congress has managed to win over former party MLA Mangat Rai Bansal, who had crossed over to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in 2013. Bansal had left the SAD in October in protest against the incidents of sacrilege across the state. Confirming the move, Bansal said Amarinder was the only leader who could bring Punjab back on the path of development and end the drug menace. The ex-MLA said he would rejoin the Congress along with his supporters at the Bathinda rally. Sources said party leaders Sunil Jakhar and Sukhjinder Randhawa had played a key role in bringing back Bansal, who wields influence among voters of Mansa and Budhlada assembly segments.