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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Punjab Congress presents united face as Sidhu leads march to Lakhimpur Kheri

Earlier, Sidhu and three dozen other party leaders apart from Congress workers, who were headed to Lakhimpur to protest against the killing of farmers, were stopped at the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh border as they tried to bulldoze through the barricades.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
October 8, 2021 6:43:53 am
Before leaving for Lakhimpur, Sidhu, who was holding a farmers' flag, slammed the BJP-led government in UP and said Punjab Congress and party MLAs are standing firmly with the farmers. (File)

Several Punjab Congress leaders, including state party chief navjot Singh Sidhu, Cabinet ministers and MLAs, were allowed to head towards Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, hours after they were detained at a police station in Saharanpur.

Punjab Transport Minister Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said the Uttar Pradesh administration has allowed 20 to 25 Punjab MLAs and ministers to go to Lakhimpur Kheri. He said that the UP police would escort them to the city where they would meet the families of farmers, who were killed in violence that erupted during a protest Sunday.

Earlier, Sidhu and three dozen other party leaders apart from Congress workers, who were headed to Lakhimpur to protest against the killing of farmers, were stopped at the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh border as they tried to bulldoze through the barricades.

Several party leaders were seen arguing with police officials amid much pushing and jostling from both sides. The UP Police said Sidhu can proceed with five others but he refused demanding that all Congress leaders be allowed to move ahead.

Later, while a group of MLAs and ministers were were taken in a bus to Sarsawa police station in Saharanpur near the border, hundreds of workers led by Punjab minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa stayed back at Shahjahanpur police picket.

Earlier, the Punjab Congress presented an united face as Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi joined the march led by Sidhu as the protest march began from Mohali.

Channi, who had a pre-wedding function of his son in the morning where several ministers were also present, made it a point to reach the congregation point in Mohali, where Sidhu spent almost half an hour waiting for the CM. Sidhu told the media that the CM had called him up and promised to attend the march once the function at his residence got over. When Channi reached the spot, Sidhu’s cavalcade had already left. Channi had to sprint a few metres to get onto Sidhu’s cavalcade in what is being seen as a message that both were united ahead of the Assembly polls in the state early next year. Channi, however, did not proceed with the cavalcade and got down in Mohali.

Before leaving for Lakhimpur, Sidhu, who was holding a farmers’ flag, slammed the BJP-led government in UP and said Punjab Congress and party MLAs are standing firmly with the farmers.

He asked why UP authorities hadn’t taken action against Mishra’s son even after an FIR was lodged in the matter “Are union minister and his son above the law and constitution? This fight is for our farmers. “If UP police do not arrest the union minister’s son, I will go on hunger strike. It is my ‘vachan’ (promise).”

Later, he said, “If the arrest is not made by tomorrow (Friday), or he does not join the investigation, I will go on a hunger strike.”

While UP Police have booked Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister for State Ajay Mishra, no arrests have been made in connection with the incident in which three others — two BJP workers, Mishra’s driver, and a journalist — were also killed.

The Congress cavalcade, moving through Zirakpur and Ambala to reach the Haryana-UP border, resulted in traffic jams at several places. The Congress leaders and workers marched with black flags and farmers’ flags and not the party flag.

At the border, the arguments between Sidhu and police officials went on for several minutes even as Cabinet Minister Amrinder Singh Raja Warring joined in and workers raised slogans against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Sidhu argued that protesting was his democratic right and the UP Police was treating them like “goondas” while they were not able to deliver justice in case of Lakhimpur, where a minister’s son had allegedly mowed down protesting farmers. He even asked the police to allow them to go to Lakhimpur on foot.

Sidhu was heard questioning the police: “What kind of justice is this? The peaceful protestors are stopped and ministers’ sons are allowed to mow down farmers and go scot free.”

Apart from Warring, Cabinet ministers Pargat Singh, and Vijay Inder Singla had accompanied Sidhu to Haryana-UP border. Sidhu also got support of Deputy Chief Ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni, and ministers Gurkirat Kotli and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. While Randhawa and Soni did not accompany him to UP, they were with him for sometime in Punjab. Bajwa accompanied Sidhu in but did not get on the open mini truck with the PPCC chief.

Randhawa said, “I came to Mohali in the afternoon. We were among those flagging off the cavalcade. I had an important meeting lined up, hence I could not accompany them.”

Apart from Singla, former CM Capt Amarinder Singh’s other close aides and former ministers Sunder Sham Arora and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot too were part of the convoy.

A number of MLAs including Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa, Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal, Hardyal Kamboj, Madan Lal Jalalpur, Sukhpal Bhullar, Laddi Sherowalia, Balwinder Singh Laddi, Surjit Dhiman, Dr Harjot Kamal, Santokh Singh Bhalaipur, Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, Satkar Kaur, PPCC working president Kuljit Nagra, and Pawan Goel accompanied him to UP. These MLAs alongwith ministers including Warring, Pargat and Singla were taken in a bus alongwith Sidhu to Sarsawa police station.

Bajwa and Kotli, alongwith two MPs including Jasbir Singh Dimpa and Dr Amar Singh were holding the ground at Shahjahanpur alongwith PYC president Brinder Dhillon and a number of MLAs. “They stayed put there to lead the workers, who had reached all the way to extend their solidarity,” said an aide of Sidhu.

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