Chandigarh: Amarinder Singh on Friday said that the 2017 Assembly elections may turn out to be a contest between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party with the Akali Dal and BJP remaining on the "fringes" only.
He also ruled out forming a separate party, while asking, "do you think with all this love, respect and support of MLAs, Congress workers and leaders and also the general public I should be leaving my party and leaving everything behind?"
He asserted that the Congress continued to be the strongest party in Punjab in terms of mass base and public support.
"It (2017 polls) is going to be contest between AAP and Congress with SAD-BJP combine remaining on the fringes only," the former Chief Minister said.
Amarinder claimed, while the BJP remained "inconsequential" in Punjab, the Akali reputation had touched its nadir.
He said that in 2007 and 2012 assembly polls Congress had lost the election by merely one per cent of the votes against the Akali-BJP combine.
"People, particularly the youngsters do not like even to talk about Akalis and Badals", he remarked, adding, Congress was the only viable option before the people of Punjab.
He said, AAP may be commanding an appeal among a section of youth, but it does not have any experienced leadership except for Sucha Singh Chhotepur.
On Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's reported charges that the Congress had betrayed and let down Akali stalwart late Harchand Singh Longowal, Amarinder retorted, "Let me ask Badal as who betrayed him and who backed out of the accord which Sant Longowal signed with Rajiv Gandhi (the then Prime Minister)".
Amarinder claimed,both Badal and late SGPC head Gurcharan Singh Tohra actually "betrayed and backstabbed" Sant Longowal and he had to pay with his life.
On the issue of the PCC also holding dharna outside the sugar mills for payment to the sugarcane growers, Amarinder said, it was a good thing as everyone in the party was working towards public welfare.
"What is wrong in it if we are holding a dharna here outside the CM residence while others are holding it outside the mills?", he asked, adding, everybody's purpose is to get the farmers their due which is pending for a long time.
2017 Assembly polls are likely to be a litmus test for faction ridden Congress in Punjab which is out of power for around eight years.