August 3, 2021 10:31:44 am
The ruling Congress in Punjab has suffered two major setbacks in the Malwa region withing a week with two of its grassroots leaders making their way to the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The defections have come at a time when the party has effected a much-awaited major revamp in the organisational structure of Punjab unit following a prolonged factional fight between Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Amritsar East MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Last Monday (July 26), Gurmeet Singh Khudian, a grassroots leader from former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s Lambi constituency joined the AAP. A week later, another leader who remained a a six- time councillor from Bathinda, Jagroop Singh Gill quit the Congress and switched over to the main opposition party.
Khudian, son of former Lok Sabha MP Jagdev Singh Khudian, was the covering candidate for Congress’s chief ministerial candidate Capt Amarinder Singh from Lambi during the 2017 Assembly elections. Ahead of that year’s election, he had announced to quit Congress when Sidhu was being formally inducted into the party. He had later said that Sidhu had called him up and tried to persuade him to not leave the party. With him leaving the Congress now, days after Sidhu was named the new state Congress president, the party will have to look for a candidate from Lambi for 2022 Assembly polls as Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, who used to contest from the constituency against Parkash Singh Badal, has already announced to hang his boots. Khudian was the natural choice of the party for the seat.
Gill, who quit Congress Monday to join AAP, was considered close to the CM. He was reportedly upset at not being named the Mayor of Bathinda Municipal Corporation after party’s win in recent civic body elections. His holding AAP’s broom is also being seen as a setback for Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who is an MLA from Bathinda.
“Both were like left and right arms of the CM. We should have retained them,” a party leader said on anonymity.
The defections have come ahead of the Assembly elections that are likely to be held early next year.
The Congress leader added that such exits should not be allowed but with the new guard in place in the organisation, there seems to be a disconnect, “The intelligence had been providing information to the party organisation about any leader warming up to other parties. This helped the party work on the leaders well in time and discourage them from switching over. With a gulf existing between Sidhu and the CM, the government and party are not on the same page as of now,” the leader said.
The two defections has the Congress worried. During the 2017 elections, the 18 pf 20 seats that the AAP won were from the Malwa region.
Earlier, another leader from Ferozepur, Dr Mohinder Singh Rinwa had also quit Congress to join Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The party has faced internal crisis in the last two months when a number of leaders raised a banner of revolt against the chief minister.