Left with no other choice after remaining in political oblivion for many months, the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) headed by Manpreet Singh Badal, today merged his political outfit with the Congress.
An estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, and a former Finance Minister, Manpreet had announced the formation of his party in 2011, ahead of assembly election in Punjab with a similar agenda as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to shun VIP culture and be a harbinger of change by way of alternative politics.
Despite a groundswell of support from the people at rallies before the elections and the Akali Dal fearing him, his party did not cut much ice in the 2012 elections with not a single MLA elected to the assembly – including Manpreet who lost badly in the two constituencies he had contested. He, however, played a spoiler for the Congress by polling over 6 per cent votes – considered Congress votes – ending up providing another term to the SAD-BJP combine.
His stock in Punjab politics came down a few notches after his defeat in 2012. He tried to strike an alliance with AAP during the last Lok Sabha elections but the party refused to ally with anyone. Till then Manpreet insisted he would not give up his identity PPP leader.
Eighteen months later, Manpreet had virtually nowhere to go with the 2017 assembly elections staring him in the face. He initiated talks with Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, soon after he took over. At the same time, his close aide, Gurpreet Singh Bhatti prevailed upon him to join AAP. However, he faced stiff resistance from leaders of AAP and he was left with no choice but to join the Congress.
Considered a stubborn leader as far as his beliefs and decisions were concerned, Manpreet relented to merge his party with the Congress and accept 4-5 tickets for himself and his supporters. Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh who was against an alliance with his PPP during the last elections, agreed to take him on board in view of a mammoth challenge posed by the emergence of AAP in the state.
Since he does not have much of a support base left in Punjab, he may not be able to help the Congress. But for now, with six Congress leaders joining AAP after Amarinder took over, Manpreet’s joining is a breather for the party. He may not help garner votes but he certainly will help his own cause. He is being perceived as a threat by the middle rung leadership of the party that was waiting in wings to emerge after Amarinder finishes his innings. With his serious demeanour, Manpreet can certainly move his way up in the Congress by impressing AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who already looks up to him. It was Rahul has prevailed upon him to merge his party with the Congress.
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