Setting the agenda for Punjab polls in a meeting with party leaders, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi highlighted drug menace, farm crisis and flight of industry among issues that the party will highlight during the upcoming assembly polls.
Be it small-scale industry or agriculture, Punjab always showed the way. It’s very sad where it has reached and the Congress will win the election and set the agenda for the state,” he said.
Welcoming suggestion from a district president that the party should not repeat the “mistake” of 2012 polls of naming candidates days ahead of the polls, he said, the candidates will be announced six months in advance and due representation will be given to all sections, including women, youth and different castes and communities. I met Congressmen and got a feeling of togetherness,” Rahul said.
However, both during his interaction with Congress office-bearers and reporters, Rahul steered clear of announcing Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh as the chief ministerial candidate. District Congress committee (DCC) presidents of Bathinda and Tarn Taran, Mohan Lal Aggarwal and Sukhpal Bhullar, had suggested that Amarinder be named the CM candidate.
“The Congress has a precedent of naming the CM candidate after the elections in a meeting of MLAs. Amarinder, as party Congress chief, is the face of the party in elections,” he told reporters.
Amarinder feels unwell
While many complained against holding of the meeting outdoors under white canopy in the soaring heat at a marriage palace in Zarikpur, Amarinder took ill and his aides rushed to get him diet coke and sweets fearing his blood sugar level had gone down. It was found to be normal when checked at the venue. Though he continued to be by Rahul’s side after taking some rest, Amarinder was looking unwell.
A block president from Batala, Manjit Singh, accused MLA Ashwani Sekhri of hobnobbing with the BJP. An angry Sekhri retorted and dubbed him a sympathiser of AAP. Rahul defused the heat by saying he will look into the matter.
MLA Shyam Sunder Arora was all praises for party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor but rued the strategy was being leaked to the media. Kishor, who managed the entire show from the sidelines, emerged only when Rahul had left.
The invite to the media to reach the venue for “high tea” with Rahul left many high and dry. After negotiating the traffic all the way to Zirakpur and braving the heat, when scribes reached the venue Rahul evaded most queries saying it was just an informal interaction not a press conference!
Meet before PPCC rejig raises brows
Questions were also raised on why was the meeting held before the announcement of the revamped state executive. “The PPCC can be announced anytime now. Some of the district presidents present today may not remain on their posts after the rejig. The meeting was done in a hurry at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a party leader.
CLP leader official chauffeur?
Not too long ago when Sunil Jakhar was the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, he drove Rahul Gandhi around when the latter came to visit Bathinda and Faridkot in November last year. On Saturday, it was incumbent CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi who did the honours. Channi drove Rahul from the UT guest house to Zirakpur and later to the airport.