Rahul unites Punjab Congress leaders

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses during a programme organised on 70th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on Aug 20, 2014. (Photo: IANS)Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Chandigarh  briefly “united” warring leaders of the party’s Punjab unit who were clearly told that if they did not work together, they will continue to sit in the opposition.

At the meeting here, Gandhi gave a call to Congress leaders to launch the “Save Punjab” campaign across the state from Nov 14 to save it from the menace of drugs.

The Congress meeting passed a resolution to move the Supreme Court to seek a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into smuggling of drugs in Punjab.

While Gandhi’s visit was officially termed as one to “rejuvenate” the Congress leadership, it turned out to be a photo-op for top leaders of the state Congress to be seen together for the first time in months. Incidentally, the slogan for the meeting of the Punjab Congress leadership was “Together, We can make a difference”.

While the visit was organised by Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa, former chief minister and deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Amarinder Singh attended one of the meetings that Gandhi addressed. Former union minister Ambika Soni, leader of opposition in Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar and other senior leaders also attended the meeting.

Bajwa is being targeted by Amarinder Singh and other senior leaders for having failed to provide effective leadership in nearly 18 months that he has been the state Congress president. Bajwa had replaced Amarinder on the post but the Congress has not been able to make any major impact in the state.

Gandhi first gave a pep talk to block and district presidents of the party followed by meetings with members of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), MPs, legislators and heads of frontal organizations.

“We have to stay united to take on the Akali Dal. I am optimistic that if we stay united, no one can defeat the Congress in the 2017 assembly elections. If we don’t do that, we will have to sit in opposition,” he told the leaders.

Gandhi told block and district presidents that the party should highlight the drugs menace in the state through a sustained campaign.

He pointed out that the Akali Dal leadership had ridiculed him when he had mentioned the drugs menace two years ago. “Now the Punjab government (led by the Akali Dal) has initiated a campaign against drugs,” he pointed out.