Times change and so do people. Nobody has realised this better than former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. He hit a low when the Congress lost the 2012 Assembly elections in Punjab, yet another when he was removed as the state party chief last year.
He has been a quiet witness to his people switching loyalties. But the worst came when his close confidant and the virtual driver of his last campaign, Dhuri MLA Arvind Khanna, stayed away from the Lok Sabha polls, as Amarinder slogged it out in the high-stakes battle of Amritsar.
Arvind, a businessman by profession, did not even turn up once nor offered his chopper or aircraft for the campaign, causing murmurs in Amarinder’s camp. The scion of the erstwhile state of Patiala, Amarinder, had invited the wrath of his friends and supporters in the past owing to his perceived closeness to Arvind.
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During the Punjab Bachao Yatra prior to the 2012 elections, Amarinder was flown personally by Arvind in his chopper wherever he had to address a rally. Even during the election, he was seen driving him to various parts of the state. Arvind, who is distantly related to Amarinder, was accordingly given appropriate importance in the party, having been appointed secretary incharge of the Pradesh Congress office when the latter was the PPCC chief. Whenever he visited Chandigarh, Amarinder always stayed at Arvind’s Sector 10 house.
But this time, Arvind did not even come for a day. He stayed away from the state during the entire election season and camped in Delhi where he runs his businesses. With him remaining absent from his constituency of Sangrur, Congress nominee Vijya Inder Singla had even complained to the party high command. The Congress campaign committee also gave an ultimatum to absentee MLAs, most of who returned to canvass for the party, but Arvind stayed away.
Sources close to Amarinder said he was quiet on the issue. “He has never discussed this but the fact remains that Arvind was not there when Amarinder needed him the most. He did not even offer his chopper. It is sad,” said a source. While Arvind was not available for comments, sources close to him said he was disillusioned with the state of affairs in Punjab Congress.
With Partap Singh Bajwa at the helm of affairs, Arvind was completely sidelined. “Thankfully, he did not switch sides and join Akalis. It is only because he did not want it to reflect on Amarinder. How can you say he is deserted Captain?” asked a closed aide of Arvind.
Sources added that he did not offer him his chopper because Amarinder, being a star campaigner of the party, was provided a chopper by the Congress high command. But the former chief minister’s loyalists quote the example of Rajasansi MLA Sukh Sarkaria, who was reportedly on the verge of joining SAD when Amarinder’s candidature was announced from Amritsar. “Though he was unhappy, he dropped the idea of switching over because he said Amarinder needed him the most,” said a source.