Chandigarh: Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday said he welcomes the "belated initiative" by his bete noire Amarinder Singh aimed at taking on the ruling SAD-BJP with a rally on Jan. 22 at Amritsar but clarified that the event would be held under the party's umbrella.
BJP President Amit Shah is set to launch his party's drive against drugs in Amritsar on Jan. 22 and Congress has decided it will to counter the ruling coalition by opening a campaign across the state.
"I am happy that the entire party is getting united to confront Shah. Punjab Congress has already announced the Jan. 22 programme. We have to take on Shah not only on drugs but on several other issues.
"It is the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee programme that has been endorsed by Amarinder and I welcome it," Bajwa, a former Gurdaspur MP, said in a statement here.
His comments came hours after former Punjab chief minister Amarinder held a luncheon meeting which was a virtual show of strength in response to demands by Congress MLAs, ex-MLAs and other office bearers.
Bajwa was conspicuous by his absence at the luncheon meet at Amarinder's Moti Bagh Palace residence in Patiala, which came days after the latter met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and was understood to have sought the removal of Congress's state unit chief.
In his statement today, Bajwa said he welcomes "the belated initiative taken by Amarinder, Congress's Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha to confront the BJP chief by organising a counter anti-drug rally.
However, he insisted that the Congress programme would be held under the umbrella of PPCC and the modalities would be chalked out in consultation with the party high command after the Muktsar rally at Maghi on Jan. 14.
Bajwa, meanwhile, said the party would reiterate its demand for a CBI inquiry into drug smuggling in the state.
He also said Congress would question Shah on the issue of alleged forced conversions and on "the sword hanging on the Punjabi farmers of Gujarat who are facing the threat of being uprooted" while the Gujarat government is still to withdraw its special leave petition in Supreme Court in this regard.
He said the party would also try to corner BJP over the non-implementation of the 'one rank, one pension' decision which had been taken by the previous UPA government.
"A party meeting is being convened to take the final call on this issue in consultation with party MPs and MLAs from the state and party chief Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi to finalise the modalities for the programme," Bajwa said.
He pointed out that ever since the arrest of alleged drug lord Jagdish Bhola in connection with the multi-crore drug racket case, Congress has been in the protest mode on the drugs issue. It had thus held a "chakka jam" programme on January 16 last year which was followed by a relay hunger strike from January 19 to 28 in Chandigarh.
"The latest in the series of protests were dharnas held at the district headquarters on January 5," he said.
Amarinder, the Amritsar MP, today rallied his supporters as he announced that the party would launch a campaign to take on the ruling Akali-BJP alliance with a rally on Jan. 22.
At Amarinder's today, 35 of the 45 Congress MLAs were present besides the party's district presidents and office bearers.
Bajwa, meanwhile, said he would also meet Sonia and Rahul to explain the "ground realities" in the state, but refused to comment on the luncheon hosted by Amarinder in Patiala.