The Punjab Congress’ annual conference at Issru in Khanna, held in the memory of Shaheed Karnail Singh on August 15, turned out to be a complete Captain Amarinder Singh show with many party leaders skipping the event.
Despite Partap Singh Bajwa being the chief of the Punjab Congress, Captain not only addressed the rally as the party’s key speaker, but Bajwa claims he was not invited to the conference that was organised by MLA Gurkirat Kotli, grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh.
“I was not invited to the Issru conference. So, there was no point attending it,” said Bajwa.
Kotli countered the claim. “You can see Bajwa’s photos on our rally’s posters. In fact, I also sent him an invitation to attend the rally but he chose not to come,” said Kotli.
The Bajwa-Captain clash has set the tone for another possible split — this time even within the family of former slain chief minister Beant Singh.
While Kotli is believed to be with the Captain camp, Ravneet Singh Bittu, another grandson of Beant Singh and Ludhiana MP, is known to be closer to Bajwa.
Sources from the Congress confirmed to The Indian Express that even Bittu, Kotli’s first cousin, was not on the invitees list for the Issru conference and neither did he attend it.
During the Lok Sabha polls, the cousins were seen to be close with Kotli having campaigned extensively for the younger Bittu. Differences between the two cousins have intensified since then. Also missing was Shamsher Singh Dullo, former PPCC president and a native of Khanna. “The Issru conference is nobody’s private rally to glorify themselves. It is of the entire Congress party and being chief of PPCC, it is simply ridiculous that Bajwa was not invited. Even former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhatthal, myself and Ludhiana MP Bittu were not invited. So was this a Congress rally or Captain’s private rally organised by his loyalist Kotli?” said Dullo.
Demanding that the high command intervene at the earliest, he said, “This situation is going to prove horrendous for the Congress in 2017 (when the state goes to polls). We seek immediate interference of the high command to sort this out. Groupism does not mean you convert a party rally into a private one.”
The extent of the Captain show at the rally could be gauged from the fact that posters with slogans of ‘Captain Lyao, Punjab Bachao’ (Bring Captain, save Punjab) were put up at the Congress’ camp.
Kotli said, “There are no differences within our family.”