Rahul says Amarinder Cong Punjab CM face; attacks Akalis

Rahul says Amarinder Cong Punjab CM face; attacks Akalis
 Setting at rest speculation, Rahul Gandhi today announced that Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh will be the party's chief ministerial face in the high-stakes Assembly polls and launched a scathing attack on the Akalis for "plundering" the state.

With drug menace being a major poll issue in Punjab, he promised bringing a tough law to wipe out "chitta" and jail those responsible for "playing with the lives of the youth" if his party comes to power in the state.

Amarinder (74), who is fighting his last election, will be the next Chief Minister if the party forms government in the state, Gandhi said.

Addressing the rally in the pocket-borough of Punjab minister and SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, the Congress vice president claimed Amarinder "alone can change Punjab" and set it on the right track along with the support of the people and there is no other way out.

The ruling SAD and AAP have been mocking Congress, asking why the party was not declaring Amarinder as its chief ministerial candidate for the February 4 Assembly polls.

"Punjab will be run by its people. I want to tell you that Punjab's chief minister will be from Punjab and Punjab's chief minister is sitting here. Amarinder Singh is the chief ministerial candidate and he will be Punjab's chief minister," he said, prompting leaders to congratulate Amarinder on the dais.

The Nehru-Gandhi scion said Punjab will not be run by "remote control" as it does not need one, taking a veiled dig at Arvind Kejriwal and accusing him of wanting to become Delhi and Punjab chief minister at the same time.

He also made a scathing attack on the ruling Badals, accusing them of ruining Punjab and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of siding with them and talking of eradicating graft.
Gandhi hit out at Modi for claiming to fight corruption through demonetisation and asked the Prime Minister how he could share the dais with the "corrupt" Akalis while claiming to be fighting graft.

"Modi says that he is fighting against corruption, you tell me when he talks about corruption and when he comes here and stands with the Akali Dal, how he can talk about corruption," he said.

In an apparent reference to the growing incidents of sacrilege in the recent past in Punjab, Gandhi claimed on the one hand, Modi is proclaiming himself to be against communalism of any kind and on the other, he is backing a party that is creating "communal polarisation in Punjab".

He also charged the ruling Badals with monopolising everything in the state and alleged that even if one has to seek a job then one has to give the "cut (bribe)" to them.

"They (Akalis) did not give anything to the people but only extended benefits to their own people," he said, adding they control everything, ranging from transport to cable TV business.

"If you need job, then you give cut to the Badals. If you have to travel from one place to another, then you have to use their buses. If you have to watch TV, then give cut to the Badals. For everything, you will have to give something to the Badals," the Congress leader alleged.

Gandhi, who began his three-day election tour to the poll-bound state by addressing his first public meeting in the presence of Amarinder and Navjot Singh Sidhu, also attacked AAP and Kejriwal of "trying to befool" the people of the state by making false and empty promises.

"Earlier there used to be industry which flourished here and people could see a better future," Gandhi said and claimed, "But now, every industry is leaving Punjab, be it sports goods industry or textiles. But only one family has flourished. There is monopoly of one family."

Hitting out at AAP, which is also eyeing to wrest power in the state, he termed it a party of "outsiders", and it can not protect the interests of Punjab.

Referring to the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal issue, Gandhi alleged that AAP leaders were saying different things in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, which clearly shows that they had "only their personal interests at heart" and were making statements to "suit the situation".

Earlier, Gandhi released a song 'Jag Zara' by Sadhvi Khosla, whose documentary film on drugs, 'Fading Glory' was also released by him last year. The song underlines the drug menace in Punjab and appeals to the people to wake up to its dangers.

In his address, Amarinder said if Congress comes to power, it will cancel all "false" cases filed against innocent people allegedly by the Akalis and asserted that those guilty of victimising and terrorising the people will be sent to jail.

He alleged that Majitha, the Assembly constituency of Bikram Majithia, has the largest number of false cases registered against people.

Accusing the Badals of establishing their "family fiefdom by bypassing all democratic norms", the Congress state unit chief lambasted the Akali leaders for "running mafias and vowed to throw everyone of them into jail".

"Neither of the Badal son-duo, nor the `Lambu' (reference to Bikram Majithia) would win in these elections. The end had begun for all of them," Amarinder claimed.

Claiming that more than 90 lakh youths in the state are unemployed or underemployed, he promised to ensure jobs for them.

"These are your elections, remember you would be voting for Punjab and for your future, as well as the future of your children," he told the people.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, the party's star campaigner and candidate from Amritsar East Assembly seat, urged the voters to help Congress win by a clear majority.

"Sada haq ithey rakh," Navjot demanded of the Akalis, as he accused them of plundering the state.

Claiming that the issue of drugs had first been raised by Gandhi, Sidhu appealed to the AICC vice president and Amarinder to ensure that drugs are eliminated from Punjab and those involved with drug mafia get exemplary punishment.

Punjab Cabinet Minister Bikram Singh Majithia is seeking re-election for the third time from Majitha constituency. Congress has fielded Sukhjinder Raj Singh against him while AAP's candidate is Himmat Singh Shergill from this high-profile seat.

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