The Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) headed by former Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala’s wife will merge into the Congress, with a formal announcement to be made by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Punjab on Saturday.
The decision to merge the outfit with the Congress came after the Barnala family met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Delhi on Thursday.
Among those who met Sonia were SAD (Longowal) president Surjit Kaur Barnala, her son and outfit general secretary Gaganjit Singh Barnala and Gaganjit’s son Simar Partap Barnala. Simar Pratap had unsuccessfully contested the 2015 Dhuri assembly bypoll on Congress symbol. “We have decided to merge out party with Congress unconditionally,” Gaganjit Barnala told PTI, adding that a formal announcement “will most likely be made on Saturday”.
The merger is viewed as a move to strengthen the anti-SAD-BJP sentiment and to counter the growing influence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab.
Surjit Singh Barnala, along with Harchand Singh Longowal, had signed an accord with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s for bringing peace to Punjab during the troubled times of militancy.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal earlier joined Congress and merged his outfit People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with it.
Congress general secretary and in-charge of Punjab affairs, Shakeel Ahmad too said the announcement “is likely on Saturday”. The Barnalas share a good rapport with former chief minister and Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh and this has helped in initiating the merger move ahead of Punjab assembly elections slated early next year. Sources said Simar Pratap is likely to be the party candidate from Dhuri, a seat represented by Gaganjit Barnala once.
Rahul to hold meeting ‘for unity’
Chandigarh: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will reach Zirakpur around 11.30am on Saturday and will hold a meeting with almost 2,000 party members, including sitting and former MLAs, MPs, and block unit presidents.
The meeting, organised by poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s organisation Indian Political Action Committee, assumes significance as the state Congress, which faced factionalism, wants to put up a united face to take on the SAD-BJP alliance and an emerging AAP in the polls.
Senior Congress leaders Jagmeet Brar and Bir Devinder Singh were suspended for their outbursts against party leaders, especially Amarinder Singh, earlier this month. PTI