Sensing desertion by disgruntled Congress-turned-Akali leaders, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal expelled party’s Patiala district president Deepinder Singh Dhillon and state information commissioner Harinder Singh ‘ Harry’ Mann who resigned on Friday before they jumped onto the Congress bandwagon on Monday.
Dhillon is eyeing the Congress ticket from Dera Bassi and Mann from Samana in the 2017 assembly polls. Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh is likely to announce their joining the party at a press conference on Monday.
The desire for a poll ticket has been a running theme in both Dhillon and Mann switching sides earlier from Congress to the ruling Akali Dal as well. Sources said they were going back now after “personal efforts” by Amarinder, who promised them tickets from their old bastions.
This is another significant walk in into the Congress after Manpreet Singh Badal merged his People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress in January. Speculation about Dhillon’s “homecoming” had been rife particularly after Amarinder spent around two hours at his son’s wedding at Dera Bassi last Sunday.
Dhillon blamed chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma for “forcing” him to “avail the option to join the Congress”, while Harry Mann said he was “feeling suffocated with SAD policies”.
Accusing Sharma of unleashing political vendetta, Dhillon told HT: “I have resigned from the SAD as, fuming over my popularity in Dera Bassi, NK Sharma was hell-bent to harass my supporters. What I am today is because of the people who support me, and this decision ( to rejoin the Congress) has also been taken by them.”
Mann said he remained a “political person” and was unable to carry out his social and political duties while remaining on the post of the information commissioner. “I am joining the Congress without any conditions as I am impressed with the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh,” he said.
About his “expulsion” from the SAD, Mann said he was “amused”. “It shows the frustration of the SAD. How can they expel me when I am not a primary member? I had resigned from the SAD membership before joining as the information commissioner,” he said.
Old Congress ties
Once considered the right hand man of Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, Dhillon was left out in the juggling of Congress tickets in the 2012 polls to “adjust” Amarinder and Preneet’s son Raninder Singh from Samana. Dhillon had been denied the ticket in favour of Jasjit Singh Randhawa. At this, Dhillon had quit the Congress and contested as a rebel finishing second to SAD’s NK Sharm a. After efforts of cabinet minister Bikr am Singh Majithia, he joined the SAD later that year and even contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections against Preneet. Aam Aadmi Party’s Dr Dharamvira Gandhi won that election. Mann’s Samana ticket chances seem brighter as Amarinder has announced “one family-one ticket” rule for the 2017 elections ruling out the possibility of his son Raninder contesting the seat.