Amid reports of a likely alliance between the Congress and the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), its chief Manpreet Singh Badal on Wednesday confirmed that he met newly-appointed PPCC president Capt Amarinder Singh. The meeting, kept under wraps by both the sides, took place on Sunday, a day before Amarinder had to leave for Delhi to attend the ongoing Parliament session.
Sources said Amarinder, normally surrounded by aides, was alone at his Sector 10 residence in Chandigarh after returning from Jalandhar. “I met him briefly. I wanted to congratulate him for his being appointed the PPCC chief. We did not discuss anything else. It was just a courtesy call,” Manpreet Badal said on Wednesday.
Sources said a detailed discussion took place, during which, the possibility of a merger between both the parties was also considered. An announcement is likely after Amarinder’s rally in Bathinda on December 15. Manpreet, however, denied his party would be merged into the Congress.
Interestingly, it was Amarinder who blocked the PPP’s alliance with the Congress ahead of 2012 assembly elections. Manpreet’s party secured over 6 per cent of votes and the Congress, that sat in opposition for a second consecutive time, later regretted not having allied with the PPP.
The PPP later allied with the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha election, under then PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa. Manpreet even contested on the Congress’ hand symbol from Bathinda and took on Harsimrat Kaur, the wife of his estranged cousin Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. Harsimrat won but with just over 20,000 votes, which was considered a sort of moral victory for the PPP chief.
Amarinder has of late repaired relations with Manpreet, inviting him for two of his book launch functions in Chandigarh and Delhi respectively.
Sources in Congress say AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi has a soft spot for Manpreet and played an important role in sealing the alliance ahead of the LS elections. Manpreet, a former Punjab finance minister, had fallen out with his uncle and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to form the party.
Although he had a similar agenda as AAP, he could not find much ground in Punjab. The main criticism against him was that he was not a team players. Some of his associates left him, including Bhagwant Mann who joined AAP and became an MP.