Chandigarh: Senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh along with his some party legislators today held a sit-in in front of the official residence of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here on issues concerning farmers, especially sugarcane growers.
Led by Congress Deputy Leader of Lok Sabha and party's Amritsar MP, at least 21 sitting MLAs, former MPs, MLAs, PCC and district presidents, and senior leaders of the party, squatted on the road in front of chief minister's residence for about 45 minutes. The Congress has a strength of 43 MLA in the 117 member Punjab Assembly.
However, PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa, former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and senior sitting MLAs Brahm Mohindra, Laal Singh, were conspicuous by their absence at the dharna site.
The protest comes a day after Amarinder met with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. The meeting was held soon after PCC chief Pratap Singh Bajwa, a known detractor of Amarinder, met the vice president.
As Amarinder had announced 11 AM as the time of his protest, Badal was at the front gate of his official residence sharp at the time and occupied a chair to "welcome" his "guests". He had also placed chairs, water bottles and some eatables for the protesters.
However, Amarinder along with other protesters reached the spot at about 11.20 AM, Badal, by then, had left for his official meeting with a visiting Korean delegation.
"I was here at 11 AM to welcome my guests...They have not arrived till 11.15 and as I have to meet a Korean delegation I am going inside (the house)," Badal told reporters.
"I had yesterday called up Amarinder for a cup of tea today to discuss farmers issues in the state, but he refused blatantly," five-time CM Badal said.
He said the pending payment by cooperative sugar mills for the last crushing season of sugarcane growers was about Rs 540 crore, out of which Rs 450 crore had been given to the farmers.
"Around Rs 90 crore of payment is pending which will be given in the month of September," he announced.
He said that some Rs 230 crore payment is pending by private sugar mills. The matter is subjudice and the hearing is on September 10. The government is making efforts to release this money as well, he said.
After Badal returned to his residence, Amarinder along with his Congress flock reached the venue and raised anti- government slogans.
Addressing the protesters, Amarinder said his party had to resort to a dharna as payment of some 2 lakh cane growers is due in the state.
"There is some eight months long pending payment to the sugarcane growers is yet to be given by the government and it must be released immediately," he said.