Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh took an aggressive stance on Wednesday saying he would put the Badals behind bars on assuming power as “there is so much against them”.
He was addressing a political conference of his party to mark Baisakhi at Takht Damdama Sahib here. As he received a big round of applause, Amarinder recalled that immediately after taking over as chief minister in 2002 his government had arrested then Punjab Public Service Commission chairman Ravi Sidhu for graft.
Amarinder said in case the Supreme Court decided against Punjab on the SYL canal issue he would resign as MP and sit on dharna at the canal and would not let the water flow into it. Amarinder himself and the party leaders projected him as the “saviour of Punjab waters”. “In case the court decides against Punjab, nine lakh acres in the state would become barren,” he added.
Blaming chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for incidents of sacrilege last year, Amarinder said he would inquire into the issue on taking over as CM and avenge the disrespect shown to Guru Granth Sahib by punishing the culprits. He asked the Badals to apologise to people for the sacrilege cases.
The Congress put up an impressive show, projecting Amarinder as their best bet and targeting the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for not projecting anyone as their chief ministerial candidate.
In the presence of around three dozen party MLAs and two MPs, campaign committee incharge Ambika Soni said anyone going against Amarinder would meet the same fate as that of Bir Devinder Singh and Jagmeet Brar.
Party leaders, including Punjab affairs incharge Shakeel Ahmad, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar, CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi, national youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Manpreet Singh Badal eulogised Amarinder, hailing him as the next chief minister.
Ahmad told the audience that supporting the AAP is like supporting the SAD-BJP as the AAP would eat into the Congress vote bank.
The party leaders turned it into a virtual election rally as they asked people “to defeat the corrupt SAD-BJP alliance and ignore outsiders AAP”. They projected the Congress and SAD-BJP as the main competitors, with the Congress having an edge and the AAP nowhere in the race. Manpreet told people to put their stamp on the Congress symbol of hand.
Amarinder said that on assuming power, he would constitute a police welfare board, waive farmers’ debts, ensure that mortgaged land of farmers is not sold to recover debts and focus on uplift of youth.
Capt slams former loyalist
Taking a dig at his one-time loyalist and SAD MLA from Talwandi Sabo Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Amarinder accused the former of backstabbing him and the party. “He (Sidhu) has backstabbed me. This amounts to backstabbing the party. Don’t expect any leniency from me if you do something wrong,” he said.
Competition on dais
The dais was full of Congress leaders that made Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Nagra say that it looked like a mini rally. Then Ferozepur MLA Parminder Singh Pinki and former MLA Gurpreet Singh Kangar entered into a tiff as to who would stand near Amarinder as he stood up to speak. Kangar told Pinki that it was his right as he hailed from the area whereas Pinki’s constituency was far.
The rally had a good dose of entertainment with folk singer Balkar Sidhu and party MLA and singer Mohammad Siddique belting out popular numbers. Another singer, Hans Raj Hans, also made the audience raise slogans of ‘Jo bole so nihal’. All three also sang verses from Gurbani.
‘Badal a circus lion’
Calling Amarinder as the real lion, Manpreet Badal dubbed CM Parkash Singh Badal as a “circus lion” whose ‘tamasha’ (show) would end soon. In an emotional speech, Manpreet swore by his children that he had no tacit understanding with the Badals over joining the Congress.