Congress MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa slapped the Pathankot district chief of the party’s Sewa Dal (workers’ body), IS Gulati, just before the arrival of state unit chief Captain Amarinder Singh for the first dharna in a series of protests against the state government. The slap was followed by a scuffle among party men at the show-of-strength rally, which was attended by Amarinder’s arch rival, former state unit chief Partap Singh Bajwa too.
Video on YouTube, as taken from a Punjabi news channel, shows the backstage scuffle first, and then the slapping.
The reason for the fight was a spot in the enclosure marked out as the stage. It began just as the crowd was packing in before Amarinder and other senior leaders’ arrival, when Gulati and his supporters were entering an enclosure made for VIPs. Randhawa, MLA from Dera Baba Nanak, who was conducting the stage, objected. In a heated argument that ensued, Randhawa slapped Gulati, who tried to return the blow but missed.
Party men intervened, and an agitated Gulati moved out of the venue. Later, backstage, Randhawa’s supporters again clashed with Gulati and his men who were raising slogans against the MLA. In this melee, Gulati’s turban was tossed. Gulati’s group later staged a dharna against Randhawa outside the venue.
Talking to reporters, Gulati said, “We will meet All India Congress Committee (AICC) vice-president Rahul Gandhi and demand Randhawa’s removal from the party. If we are not given justice, we will leave the Congress. I was just trying to get a place on the stage as I am the district Sewa Dal chief. But Randhawa got agitated and slapped me when I called one of my supporters on stage. I tried to meet Capt Amarinder Singh, but in vain.”
When reporters tried to ask Amarinder about the scuffle, he moved out without talking about it.