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Another jolt to Manpreet as Cong poaches Channi
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Rebel Akali leader and former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal is losing legislators not only to the SAD but also the Congress. Charanjit Singh, an Independent legislator from Chamkaur Sahib, has decided to dump him in favour of the Congress. Channi would be joining the Congress on December 23.

With SAD Anandpur Sahib legislator Sant Ajit Singh disassociating himself from Manpreet shortly after his revolt against the SAD, the desertion by Channi means Manpreet has only his relative and Jalandhar Cantonement legislator Jagbir Singh Brar by his side now. His fourth supporter among legislators - SAD MLA from Beas Manjinder Singh Kang, is lying low and not attending his meetings. He has though not disassociated himself from Manpreet.

According to sources, Channi was perturbed that Manpreet had decided to take on former Congress legislator Bir Devinder Singh without taking him into confidence. However, when asked, Channi said this was not the case and he was joining the Congress due to his close association with Punjab Pradesh Congress (PPC) president Capt Amarinder Singh.

Channi said he had an understanding with Amarinder Singh that he would join the Congress once the latter was appointed the PPC chief. “I had conveyed my decision to join the Congress to Manpreet some time back but he requested me to extend support to him till his visit to Amritsar,” Channi added. The legislator will formally join the Congress at a function that will be presided over by Capt Amarinder Singh in Chandigarh.

On Channi, Manpreet said: “He did not seem to be enthusiastic from the start and it seemed he was looking for a better opportunity”. Manpreet said as far as he was concerned, he was not shopping for a better deal. “Our group does not have a feudal agenda and we want to take along only those people who share out vision for Punjab’s future,” said the former minister.

However, Channi’s desertion proves that both SAD and the Congress are keen that Manpreet should not gain any strength in the state. The two mainstream parties feel that the rebel Akali leader could adversely affect their prospects. There is also a feeling that Manpreet could get a boost once Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala rejoins active politics in Punjab in February and pledges his support to the rebel leader. Manpreet is expected to launch his own party soon after that and both SAD and the Congress want to deny him a good start.






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