The Congress leadership is conducting a dual exercise to get the party ready for next year's Assembly elections. Former party president Rahul Gandhi has been engaged in giving one-to-one hearings to Punjab ministers, MLAs and senior leaders while the Sonia Gandhi-appointed 3-member panel headed by Mallikarjun Kharge has sent back Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh with a long 18-point agenda, which has to be fulfilled in next six months.
Kharge conveyed the agenda to the captain on behalf of Sonia Gandhi, after she studied the panel's report. The agenda includes the sacrilege cases of the previous regime to book the Badals, drug cases, liquor mafia and mining among others, which were promised in the party manifesto in last Assembly elections. The list was drawn up on basis of the complaints received by the panel from the CM's detractors.
The Chief Minister was also told to balance the caste equations by assigning key roles to non-Jat leaders. The party sources said this was felt since the Akalis are trying to poach Hindu and OBC leaders who are neglected by the Congress. The Hindus constitute 35 per cent of the vote bank in the state while the OBCs constitute another 30 per cent. The Kharge panel, therefore, asked the Chief Minister to see that they have sufficient representation in the government and in the party.
Veteran OBC leader and former Punjab finance minister Lal Singh (78), who the CM made chairman of Punjab Mandi Board, is making rounds of Delhi to convey to Rahul Gandhi how the Dalit and OBC leaders are feeling suffocated since the CM always gives preference to members of his Jat community. The Chief Minister had given responsibilities to Lal Singh during the recent civic polls, but he says this is not enough.
The party sources said Rahul had to step in after Congress president Sonia Gandhi felt the panel set up by her could not bring all sections together. Among those he met on Friday included Rajya Sabha member Shamsher Singh Dullo, a known critic of Amarinder.
Kotkapura police firing: Sukhbir appears before SIT
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday appeared before a special investigation team (SIT) probing the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident. Badal reached the Punjab Police Officers Institute at Sector 32 here at around 11 am following a summons by the SIT.
Badal was the deputy chief minister and holding the home portfolio when incidents of desecration of religious texts and the subsequent police firing at people protesting against it had taken place in Faridkot in 2015.
Several senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders, including Bikram Singh Majithia, Balwinder Singh Bhundar, NK Sharma and Daljit Singh Cheema, reached the Punjab Police Officers Institute in a show of support to Badal.
On Tuesday, the SIT led by Additional Director General of Police (Vigilance Bureau) LK Yadav had questioned Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch and former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for two-and-a-half hours.
The Punjab government had formed the new SIT to probe the Kotkapura police firing incident following the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.