Cong embraces Badal to defeat Badal

Cong embraces Badal to defeat Badal

Making its first move, the Congress on Friday embraced Manpreet Badal, the estranged nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, to consolidate the anti-BJP-Akali Dal forces in the poll bound state.

Manpreet, a former finance minister in the Akali Dal government, met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and merged his five-year-old People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) with the Congress.

The merger was announced at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here in the presence of AICC general secretaries Ambika Soni and Shakeel Ahmad, Punjab unit chief Amarinder Singh, his predecessor Partap Singh Bajwa, Randeep Singh Surjewala and AICC secretary Harish Choudhary.

 Punjab Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh, who will lead the campaign in the state, also projected Manpreet as the next finance minister of the state who will put the state economy back on track.

The Congress had lost the 2012 Assembly elections by 0.8 per cent votes while Manpreet’s PPP had polled five per cent votes. However, the PPP was unable to win a single Assembly segment.

“Had we come together, we could have saved Punjab,” Amarinder Singh said.
The emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a force to reckon with in Punjab has forced the Congress to hunt for “like-minded” outfits and Manpreet’s PPP was the first step for consolidation of “anti-fundamentalist” forces to the rout of the Akali Dal-BJP government in the state after a “decade of misrule”.

 He said the Congress was also in talks with the BSP and Left parties for an alliance for the Assembly elections next year.

The AAP, which has placed its bets on Punjab, too was keen on joining hands with Manpreet’s outfit but were unsuccessful.

“The AAP does not have a blue print to turnaround Punjab. The Congress has a stronger presence and is better placed to change the face of Punjab,” Manpreet said.

Manpreet quit as finance minister following differences with his uncle and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and cousin and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“It (the merger) is required to get rid of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Badal family. Punjab needs to move beyond the personality-based politics,” Manpreet said adding he had discussed 11-point agenda for the state during three meetings with Rahul Gandhi.

Manpreet had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket against his sister-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who won by a margin of nearly 20,000 votes.
DH News Service

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