Amid allegations from certain quarters that he remains “inaccessible” to party workers, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday met a number of leaders at the Congress Bhawan, the party state headquarters, here on Tuesday.
The meetings assume significance coming in the backdrop of rising rebellion within the party ranks over denial of Lok Sabha tickets to certain aspirants. There is a perception that apart from the four sittings MPs who have been renominated, the party has picked the other seven candidates who were all Amarinder’s nominees.
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The seriousness of the matter could be gauged from the fact that Amarinder cancelled his scheduled trip to Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir where he was to campaign for Congress candidates.
Amarinder met several leaders including MLAs from Faridkot, office bearers of Majhbi-Valmiki Welfare Association, and sitting MLA from Amargarh, Surjit Singh Dhiman, and is learnt to have strategised on curbing the rebellion that could cast a shadow on the prospects of the party.
Media was denied entry to the Congress Bhawan. Even as meetings were on,Harbans Kaur, wife of former state Congress president and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Shamsher Singh Dullo, joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and was nominated from Fatehgarh Sahib Lok Sabha constituency.
Sources said Amarinder asked the party legislators and workers to “aggressively and effectively” counter the “disinformation” campaign being run by the SAD and the AAP.
Meeting with Shiman fruitless
His meeting with Dhiman, however, did not seem to bear any fruit as the MLA later told The Indian Express that he told the CM that he could not do anything if his son, Jaswinder, has decided to contest as an Independent from Sangrur against Amarinder’s aide Kewal Singh Dhillon. “I told the CM that I will advise my son against it. But if he decides to go ahead, then I cannot do much. He has his own political ambitions. He has been working in the constituency for over a year and half,” Dhiman said.
“We will see what happens. What can I do if my son contests? I cannot break my family. Family takes precedence over party. Also, they have not given any berth in the Cabinet or a Lok Sabha seat to any OBC leader,” said Dhiman, who is also an OBC.
Meeting with Faridkot MLAs
Amarinder’s Lok Sabha choice for Faridkot, Mohd Sadiq, a Doom Muslim, has not gone down well with some party leaders. Faridkot is an SC-reserved constituency having a predominant population of Majhbi Sikhs. The CM met MLAs from Faridkot and asked them to support Sadiq. “We were asked to ensure his victory. The CM would be personally accompanying Sadiq to file his nomination papers on April 24,” said an MLA requesting anonymity.
Sources said a few MLAs expressed their displeasure at the choice of the candidate. The CM gave them a pep talk to ensure Sadiq’s victory. A number of MLAs have been seeking a review of the seat. Later the party had taken in writing from them that they had no objection.
Chairmanship for Majhbis
As Majhbis and Valmikis have been protesting over not getting a berth either in the Cabinet or a Lok Sabha ticket, the CM met a delegation of Majhbi Valmiki Welfare Association led by Dr Raj Kumar Verka and Kitu Grewal. Amarinder gave them an offer to lead two boards or corporations. Grewal said, “The CM has offered us two posts of chairpersons. We will support the party candidates in all constituencies”.
Amarinder held a meeting with Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra and chairperson of election management committee Lal Singh. Sources said, among others, they discussed the Patiala seat from where Amarinder’s former Union Minister wife Preneet Kaur is contesting.
Unaffected by Harbans Kaur’s exit
Amarinder, in a statement, said Harbans Kaur’s decision to join AAP would have no impact on the prospects of the party. “She had won in 2002 polls and had since then been in political oblivion with no connect with the people,” Amarinder said.
Meanwhile, Parminder Mehta, a former Congress leader from Ludhiana rejoined Congress. Harmeet Singh Pathanmajra, who contested as an Independent in Assembly election from Sanaur, also joined the Congress party in Amarinder’s presence. Pathanmajra’s entry will give the Congress a boost in Patiala, Amarinder said.
Bali continues with his outburst
Gurvinder Singh Bali, who was expelled by Congress for six years Monday, continued with his outburst on Tuesday when he leveled allegations against Amarinder claiming that he held a meeting in England with 35 MLAs to break the Congress party.
He said money from Punjab was making way to England, Pakistan and Dubai. He said he would be exposing more people in the party in the coming days.