Virtually throwing a challenge to Punjab Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa’s leadership, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday rallied his supporters, including most of MLAs, and announced start of party’s campaign to take on ruling Akali-BJP with a January 22 rally.Amarinder’s bete noire and PCC president Pratap Singh Bajwa was absent at the luncheon meet organised by the Amritsar MP at Moti Bagh Palace here, where 35 out of 45 Congress MLAs were present besides district presidents and office bearers. The show of strength came days after Amarinder met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and was understood to have sought removal of the state unit chief. Bajwa on Sunday said that he would also meet the Congress President and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi to explain the “ground realities” in the state, but refused to comment on the meeting hosted by Amarinder.”The meeting was attended by 35 sitting MLAs, besides about 50 ex-MLAs and state and district office bearers,” a statement issued by Amarinder’s office said. It was decided that Congress will launch an awareness campaign across Punjab with each and every MLA or party candidate holding a rally in their constituency which will be attended by Amarinder “as has been demanded by the MLAs and the ex-MLAs,” the statement said. Amarinder, who is Congress’ Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, accused the BJP of adopting “dual standards by supporting and opposing the Akalis at the same time” and announced the party will hold a public rally at Amritsar on January 22 against the alleged misrule of the Akali-BJP government.It coincides with the BJP’s rally against drugs on January 22. BJP chief Amit Shah is set to launch his party’s campaign against drugs from Amritsar by the rally. In the meeting, the Congress rank and file resolved to strengthen the hands of the party president Sonia Gandhi and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi “as disciplined soldiers of the Indian National Congress”. The leaders resolved that the history will repeat itself like in 1980 when Punjab started the revival of the Congress which was followed across the country.The Congress leaders condemned the alleged misrule of the Akali-BJP regime saying that the government was “directionless and the two allies were spending more time in abusing each other than governing the state”. They said that the atmosphere was right for the Congress to mobilise its cadres as people were “disillusioned with the Akali-BJP regime and they had all the hopes with the Congress.” The leaders claimed that history will repeat itself with Congress bouncing back with a thumping majority in Punjab after the 2017 Assembly polls. The party also decided to launch a state-wide campaign against the Central government’s ordinance, which they claimed was “diluting the farmer-friendly Land Acquisition Act enacted by the previous Congress-led UPA government.”Among those who attended the meeting included Congress Legislature Party leader and Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar, former PCC president Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, MLAs Preneet Kaur, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Ashwani Sekhri, Rana Sodhi, Raj Kumar Verka, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Kewal Dhillon, O P Soni, Balbir Sidhu, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Karan Kaur Brar, Gurkirat Kotli and Navtej Singh Cheema.Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, former ministers Chaudhry Jagjit, Amarjit Singh Samra, Avatar Henry, Rana KP, Sardool Singh were also present. Senior Congress leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was not present, sources said. After Amarinder’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi, Bajwa had hit back at former Punjab Chief Minister for crossing the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ and had asked him not to “share his mind” with the media, claiming that his statement could “demoralise” the party cadre ahead of civic polls next month.Bajwa said that he would continue in the post as long as the party high command had confidence in him.

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Amarinder Singh holds show of strength amid infighting in Punjab Congress