Discomfiture due to internal party politics marred AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s first rally in Punjab in Fatehgarh Sahib even as Rahul tried to set the Punjab Congress’s house in order from the stage itself.
Starting from former PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa’s appearance at the rally, to the absence of Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo, the developments became talking points with workers commenting on the body language of different leaders.
Bajwa, a former MP from Gurdaspur who has been staying away from party candidate and incumbent PPCC president Sunil Kumar Jakhar’s campaign, reached the venue dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt instead of Congress’s signature white-kurta pyjamas. Bajwa was made to sit at the far end of the stage.
Ignored by not only party MLAs like Kuljit Singh Nagra and Lakhbir Singh Lakha, even CM Amarinder Singh skipped his name during his address. Only Rahul ensured addressing Bajwa during his speech.
Earlier, Rahul had called out to Bajwa to sit next to him.
Sources said Rahul asked Bajwa to join Jakhar’s campaign. Bajwa is learnt to have told Rahul that Amarinder could have taken him to his rallies for Jakhar two days ago. As party candidate Dr Amar Singh spoke, Rahul and Bajwa were seen engrossed in a discussion. Appearing completely disinterested, Amarinder was seated on the other side of Rahul. His stiff body language at that time was enough for the whispers to go louder. As Rahul spoke, Bajwa and general secretary incharge Asha Kumari were seen engaged in not-so-pleasant-discussion considering Bajwa’s expression, who was visibly upset.
After the rally, Bajwa told The Indian Express, “We are going to win all 13 seats. After all, CM’s government has fulfilled all the promises, and has done a lot of work. Congress workers are very enthused and our candidates will do so well that rival candidates will forfeit their security deposits.”
On Amarinder announcing Jakhar to be a CM one day, Bajwa quoted a Mirza Ghalib’s couplet, “Dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib yeh khyal acha hai.” On whether he would join Jakhar’s campaign, when Priyanka Gandhi is taking out a road show there Tuesday, Bajwa said, “Time will tell.”
Sidhu, who was not campaigning anywhere on Monday, issued a release when Rahul started speaking at the rally. Sidhu’s release stated he had hurt his vocal cords badly and would be able to restart his campaign on May 14. His schedule indicated he would not campaign in Punjab. Last time, Sidhu was ignored at the party’s Moga rally where Rahul was the main speaker. Sidhu has been upset since then and not campaigning in the state.
Sharmsher Singh Dullo, who is from Khanna where the rally was organised, was not present. His son contesting on AAP ticket against party candidate from Fathegarh Sahib had caused enough embarrassment to the party in Punjab.