M A I N   N E W S

Amarinder sounds the bugle
The new state Congress chief signals he is ready to take on the Badals
Naveen Grewal
Tribune News Service

As the Captain assumes charge, a SWOT analysis of his chances:

Capitalising on the fact that party workers smell victory and are all out to support him

Congress leadership has put their stamp of approval on Amarinder Singh

Tends to be influenced by a coterie; real test will be to see if he is able to deal with workers and Congress leaders on merit

Considered inaccessible by party workers

After Manpreet Badal's expulsion, Amarinder Singh will be facing a split SAD, making his task easier

Has identified with the common worker and raised the issue of political vendetta against Congress workers 

Health is a cause of concern for his well wishers

Though most of the Congress leaders are with him, a few party bigwigs, including Partap Bajwa and Jagmeet Brar, are likely to challenge his authority

Chandigarh, November 12
In a massive show of strength, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president and former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today signalled he was ready to battle the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party in the state. Minutes after taking formally over as the state party president, he proclaimed, “The countdown for the next General Election has begun. I will not rest till the SAD-BJP alliance is routed out, nor will I let you relax till this is done.”

Brimming with confidence and supported by almost the entire Congress leadership of the state, Captain Amarinder Singh minced no words in declaring that he was all charged up to take on the Akalis, who were yet to come to terms with their own intra-party conflicts. Barring the absence of Jagmeet Brar and Partap Bajwa, both of whom were contenders for the Congress state president post, almost the entire Congress leadership, including party veterans were present to facilitate Amarinder and “bless him for this current innings.” Rarely has Chandigarh witnessed such a swelling crowd with party workers vying with each other to catch a glimpse of the ‘Maharaja’. With Amarinder’s detractors like Rajinder Kaur Bhattal going all out to accept him as the party chief, the rally was also a show of unity.

Amarinder did not disappoint when he made a short but carefully worded speech. Fully aware of his criticism in the past of “disappearing” when things got politically hot, he reassured the cadres by saying that he was here to stay. “I will remain accessible and be here (in Chandigarh) till the elections take place. I will go to each and every village of the state and take the Akalis head on. If anyone of you has any problem, you can come to me here,” he assured his party workers.

Exploiting the anti-incumbency sentiment and setting pace for things to come, he took the Akalis head on. “With misrule and bad governance, they (Akalis) want to destroy Punjab. We will not let this happen and put an end to their rule before they can cause any further damage,” he thundered. Much before the party was in a position to come out with a manifesto, Amarinder in his speech drew the battlelines. He talked about political vendetta, deteriorating law and order situation, putting police stations under charge of legislators, tackling unemployment as 40 lakh youth were without jobs, and dealing with the state’s financial crisis. It is obvious that these issues will form the core of the Congress party’s political campaign for the next General Election.

In a clever move and subtle manner, Amarinder put himself as the more mature and senior politician aspirant for the chief minister’s slot by commenting on the father-son Badal duo. “I wonder where the elder Badal (Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal) has gone; he is probably too old to move around. But the younger one (Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal) is seen now and then inaugurating bridges and projects,” he joked and the crowds laughed along with him.

Amarinder Singh did not refer to the split in the SAD or make any attempt to capitalise on it. He, on the other hand, adopted an aggressive approach, hitting out at the opponents, comforting his own men and reassuring all that he was capable of delivering. “There is only a year left before the state goes to the polls. I can assure you that people (both the politicians and the policemen) involved in lodging 20,000 cases of vendetta against Congress workers will have to pay for their sins. I will personally see the guilty are brought to justice”, he said, sensing the sentiment of the Congress workers at the jam-packed Punjab Congress Bhawan here today afternoon. Many Congress workers who are facing trails in different courts view the return of the Congress as a way out of the cases against them. 





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