In a major boost to Congress ahead of the February 4 Punjab Assembly election, several BJP, SAD and AAP leaders, including veteran BJP leader and former state minister Satpal Gosain, joined the party on Friday. Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Amarinder Singh termed their joining as a “sign of the massive tide” in favour of his party, which, he said, was the only “real choice” for the voters of Punjab who are disillusioned with the “anti-people policies” of the SAD-BJP ruling alliance and the “corruption” prevailing in AAP.
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Gosain, a former Health minister and three-time MLA from Ludhiana, joined the Congress, along with BJP councillor from Ludhiana Gurdeep Singh Neetu. Another BJP leader to enter into the Congress fold was Amit Gosain, Ludhiana BJP spokesperson and grandson of Gosain. AAP leader from Maur Simrat Kaur Dhaliwal, who was the party’s Punjab Women Wing president, said she has decided to quit Arvind Kejriwal-led party and termed AAP’s promises to the people of Punjab a “complete farce”. She alleged that the party was violating all principles it had stood for and was selling tickets for exorbitant sums.
Ashok Prashar Pappi was another AAP leader to return to Congress. He had left the party five months ago. Pappi, who was Congress’ candidate from Ludhiana East in 2012, alleged that the “AAP was a party of corrupt individuals who were exploiting the people for their vested interests”. Rakesh Prashar, a Congress councillor, who had also switched to AAP, has now returned to the Congress.
Among the other joinees were two senior SAD leaders, including Birender Goel who has been brought into the Congress fold by former chief minister and senior party leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, against whom he had contested on a BJP ticket in 1992. Janmohan Sharma, another senior Congress leader who had joined SAD in March 2014, also returned to the party. Sharma, a former Ludhiana District Congress Committee (Urban) president, alleged the SAD was a “gang of corrupt people and mafia run” by the Badal family. Punjab, which has a 117-member assembly, is expected to witness a three-way fight between the ruling SAD-BJP combine, the Congress and the new entrant AAP.