In Punjab, differences start to emerge within Congress, AAP over INDIA bloc

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Opposition leaders during the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) meeting, in Mumbai.

Opposition leaders during the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) meeting, in Mumbai.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Even as the widening rift between the Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) partners the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been on public display in Punjab, the pact at the national level appears to have started brewing differences within these parties now as their leaders are airing different voices about collectively fighting the 2024 parliamentary poll in Punjab.

While many leaders from the State units of both the Congress and the AAP in Punjab have been opposing a poll alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha election, a few have started to favour the poll alliance for a larger cause, which could trigger internal squabbling in days to come. 

The central leaderships of these parties have already joined hands and become the part of INDIA bloc to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance in the general election, due next year.

On Monday, the leader of the Opposition in Punjab, Congress’s Partap Singh Bajwa equated the possible alliance with the AAP in Punjab to “death warrants of the Congress”, which he said he could never sign. “I joined the Congress in the year 1978 as district youth president, I became the youth Congress president and I became party State president. I have served as a cabinet Minister and have been the member of Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Today, I am the Congress Legislature Party leader, and will not, at the fag end of my career, sign the death warrant of the Congress party,” Mr. Bajwa told The Hindu.

“Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, and I, had held meetings of all MLAs, Punjab Congress Committee, which comprised of all block presidents, district presidents, all the 117 Congress candidates who contested on party symbol in the previous assembly poll, as well as former MLAs. All of them told us in the simplest possible terms that it be conveyed it to the high command that they don’t want any alliance with the AAP. What we gathered from our cadre we have already conveyed to the high command. This alliance will finish the Congress,” said Mr. Bajwa.

Several senior leaders of the Congress’s Punjab unit have been critical of the alliance with the AAP, and have been consistently allegedly that AAP had unleashed a ‘witch-hunt’ campaign against the Congress leaders and workers by misusing the police and investigation agencies. The recent arrest of Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira in connection with a case surrounding the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, pertaining to the year 2015, has only added to the Congress’s annoyance.

However, former Punjab Congress president and senior Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s remark in support of the alliance has put the party’s internal differences on the critical issue in the public domain. On Sunday, Mr. Sidhu, took to X (formerly Twitter) saying, “The INDIA alliance stands like a tall mountain, a storm here and there will not affect its Grandeur !! Any attempt to sabotage and breach this shield to safeguard our democracy will prove futile.. Punjab must understand that this is an election to choose India’s Prime Minister and not Punjab’s Chief Minister!!”

With Mr. Sidhu batting for the INDIA bloc openly, the difference of opinion in the Congress’s State unit leaders surrounding jointly contesting election in Punjab could invite fresh trouble for the party, which is yet to take a final call on the tricky matter.

On the other hand, certain State leaders of the AAP have also dismissed the possibility of an alliance with the Congress in Punjab, even as some others have favoured the alliance talks.

Last month, Punjab Tourism Minister Anmol Gagan Maan clearly stated there would be no alliance of the AAP with the Congress party in Punjab. However, Punjab’s Finance Minister and senior party leader Harpal Singh Cheema had earlier spoken in favour of the alliance, saying that the objective of the INDIA bloc was very big, and in a bid to achieve it small differences must be kept apart.

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