Capt Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa, locked in battle within the Punjab Congress, have set out to upstage each other with a series of separate rallies as part of a statewide mass contact programme. PCC chief Bajwa has held five rallies while MP Amarinder held one in Jalandhar on Wednesday, the first in a series of 12.
The attendance in Bajwa’s rallies, which will resume after a break he has taken following his mother’s death, pale in comparison to the turnout in those held by Amarinder, who enjoys the support of his party colleagues in Punjab. Bajwa, increasingly isolated in the state, is hanging on to the central leadership’s support.
Amarinder’s first rally saw the participation of at least 10 MLAs including Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar, while Bajwa has not been able to get MLAs to his rallies. An exception was in Budhlada, where Bajwa’s supporter Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, an MLA, was in attendance. Even leaders in the Bajwa camp grudgingly accepted that Amarinder’s single show has been larger than Bajwa’s five put together, each of those in a different SC constituency.
Bajwa on Tuesday showcaused two of Amarinder’s loyalists, Jalandhar Rural district unit president Jagbir Singh Brar and general secretary Satnam Kainth, after they allegedly did not work for the success of one of his rallies. It was, incidentally, Brar who hosted Amarinder’s Jalandhar rally. On stage, speakers attacked Bajwa for the showcause.
On Thursday, Amarinder will address his next rally in Gurdaspur, the parliamentary constituency that had elected Bajwa in 2009 before rejecting him last year. Amarinder’s loyalists say that the rally in Bajwa’s backyard is not intended to convey a message to him but Bajwa’s camp is reading it in that very context.
Amarinder got into the competition of rallies after he met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on June 8 but failed to get Bajwa removed. For all the strength he has shown, it is uncertain how much Amarinder will gain out of it. If the party chooses to hand him the reins, it would run the risk of conveying that it has submitted to his rebellion.
Bajwa is confined to his hometown Qadian until July 5 for the bhog ceremony of his mother.