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Rahul Gandhi calms feuding party leaders in Punjab

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi rode a train to Punjab on Thursday, walked 8km in a padyatra and met families of two Sikhs killed in police firing during recent protests against the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.

punjab Updated: Nov 06, 2015 09:00 IST
Raghbir Singh Brar
Raghbir Singh Brar
Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Congress vice-president,Faridkot
The visit also underscored a thaw in Amarinder-Rahul ties after their two meetings in October, apparently seeking Bajwa’s ouster.(Sanjeev Kumar/HT)

The two-day visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Punjab washigh on symbolism as hetook a train to the state and covered 8 kilometres on foot for “peace and harmony” in the state.

Themain slogan underlining the visit, however, was thatthe Congress stood united in the state. Amid reports of impending change of guard in the state leadership, Rahul brought the warring leaders-- state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh-- together ashe visited the families of the two men killed in police firing during protests against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot.

“I assure you that the Congress in Punjab will fight for you as one unit against the ruling SAD-BJP government,” he said holding the hands of the former and present state chiefs while addressing agathering at Gurusar village.

The visit not only showcased unity between the warring Punjab factions but also a thaw in the Amarinder-Rahul ties after their two meetings in October. The former Punjab CM, in his address, hailed Rahul as the “future PM”. He,too, announced thatthe Congress was united and committed to “freeing Punjab from the unholy SAD-BJP nexus”.

Hinting that he might be on his way out, Bajwa, in his address, said he was ready to make any sacrifice for Punjab and the party.

Amarinder’s camp claimed the visit was a prelude to the announcement of Amarinder as the state Congress president.Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni, who is expected to get a key role as the Congressrestructures its state unit in the run-up to the 2017 polls, also accompanied the party vice-president.

Rahul on Friday will breachruling Badals’ bastion of Bathinda to woothe SAD’s other core constituency — farmers. He willvisit the families of cottonfarmers who committed suicide following the failure of their cotton crop due to whitefly attack.

Amarinder and Bajwawere last seen together during the filing of nomination papers of the Congress candidate during the Dhuri bypoll held in April this year.

Theylater led parallel campaigns and the seat that fell vacant after resignation by a Congress MLA went to the ruling Akalis.

Afterdisembarking at Kotkapura railway station in Faridkot early in the morning, Rahul covered nearly 8 km on foot from Sarawan toNaimiwala, villages of victims Gurjeet Singh andKrishan Bhagwan, respectively. He metpeople and addressed two gatherings at Gurusar and Behbal Kalan on the way. He would leave for Delhi on atrain from Sangrur on Friday.

Bajwa retweets Capt’s unity slogan

While his office highlightedRahul’s unity pitch in Punjab by tweeting hisstatementsand pictureswithAmarinder andBajwaduring thepadyatra, public meetings and visits to families of the deceased, interestingly,Captain’s tweet on “Congress united to fight Akali-BJP” was retweeted by Bajwa.