A day after Punjab Congress spent a day in damage control exercise following registration of a case of illegal sand mining against Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia, the party launched a placating exercise to ensure local leaders supported the official nominee.
PPCC president Sunil Kumar Jakhar and party general secretary Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu called the local leaders, who had launched a campaign against Laddi, at Punjab Bhawan and asked them to support him in the interest of the party.
Five party leaders including Rajanbir Singh, Dr Navjot Dahiya, Jagbir Brar, Capt Harmander Singh and Brij Bhupinder Singh had raised a banner of revolt before Sherowalia was announced the candidate. They had held a press conference stating that they would not be able to support Sherowalia if he would be nominated as there were allegations of illegal sand mining against him.
While Brij Bhupinder Singh, an ex-MLA from Shahkot, could not attend the meeting, the rest four leaders attended the meeting. It is learnt that the four have not promised to toe the party line yet. They are learnt to have told Jakhar that they took a stand publicly against Sherowalia and they will have to think it through before campaigning in his favour.
It has become a challenge for the Congress to keep the flock together in Shahkot. A party leader confessed that it was not easy for them to sail through with the candidate courting a controversy soon after being officially nominated. The segment is already an Akali bastion. If Congress does not put up a united show, it could be damaging for the party’s prospect. Losing a byelection for any ruling party does not show it in a good light.
“We are yet to take a decision. We already made it clear that we would not be able to support the candidate if the party gives the ticket to Sherowalia due to his controversies. How can we go back now ? It becomes difficult to take a U-turn on a public stance. We are discussing it amongst ourselves. Let us see,” said one of the four leaders.
Rajanbir Singh was also a contender for Shahkot ticket. He is the son of former finance minister Balwant Singh, who was assassinated by militants during the millitancy days in the state. Brar was another contender, who was denied ticket from his constituency, Jalandhar (Cantt) in the Assembly election .