The Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), a splinter group of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, Sunday merged with the Congress, giving the grand old party a shot in the arm ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections.
The ground for the “unconditional merger” was prepared last week at a meeting of SAD (Longowal) leaders Surjit Kaur Barnala, her son and the outfit’s general secretary Gaganjit Singh Barnala with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi here.
Earlier this year, Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab had merged with the Congress.
Gaganjit Singh Barnala’s son Simar Partap Barnala had unsuccessfully contested an Assembly byelection in 2015 on the Congress symbol. “The SAD (Longowal) has decided to unanimously merge their party with Congress. I welcome them in the Congress. This will give us much greater strength,” Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh said at the merger function held at his residence. Congress general secretaries Ambika Soni and Shakeel Ahmad were also present at the merger event.
Talks with Left not closed: Captain Amarinder Singh
Captain Amarinder Singh Sunday said he would try to bring secular forces together to oust the Akali-BJP combine in Punjab. He said he had met CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and was open to more alliances. “We have not closed our channels with the Left. I have met Sitaram Yechury who was very keen to work with us. But his state unit appears to have reservations,” he said.