Suspended SAD MLA joins Congress, Amarinder Singh says Sidhu is welcome too

Chandigarh(PTI): Suspended Akali Dal MLA Inderbir Singh Bolaria and former district chief of the party Upkar Singh Sandhu on Monday joined the Congress which said Navjot Singh Sidhu too was “welcome” to join hands with it.

The two were inducted into the party by Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh in the presence of AICC secretary Harish Chaudhary, MLAs Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, OP Soni, Sukh Sarkaria and Raj Kumar Verka among others. Welcoming the former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders into the party, Amarinder said, “This is the beginning of the end for SAD.”

“The exodus from Akali Dal to Congress has just begun and it will keep happening till the election,” he said, adding that there were several other leaders in touch with the party leadership who will join it “in the due course”.

Assembly polls are due in Punjab early next year and the Congress is eyeing to wrest power from the SAD-BJP combine. Amarinder said Bolaria joined the party “unconditionally” and added that the entire rank and file of the Congress in Amritsar welcomed the two into the party.

Amarinder, who is also the Amritsar MP, said, Bolaria had a Congress background as his father had worked closely with him in the party before joining the Akali Dal.

“It is rather a homecoming for Bolaria,” he said.

Two-time MLA from Amritsar South Bolaria had rebelled against the SAD as he was not in favour of a solid waste treatment project in his constituency. In April, the party had sacked him from the post of Chief Parliamentary Secretary (education) after he launched a protest against the project. Replying to a query about the possibility of former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu joining the Congress, Amarinder said, everyone was “welcome” to join the party “without any condition” and “whoever does so, would have to follow a certain discipline”.

He reiterated that Sidhu’s ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ front was “welcome” to merge with the Congress but ruled out the possibility of an alliance with it. Amarinder condemned the alleged assault on Congress leaders and workers in Ludhiana “by the Akali goons”.

He said, the Congress workers had “every right” to put up effigies of Akali leaders for blasting as Ravan “as everyone believes the Badals (Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal) and (Bikram) Majithia to be the embodiment of the evil”.

“Not just Congress leaders, whole of Punjab believes them to be worse than Ravan and there is no harm if they are compared with him,” he said. Replying to questions from reporters, Bolaria said, “The Akali Dal has been reduced to the family fiefdom of the Badals and Majithia.” He claimed that the party will soon be “decimated” as its leaders and workers were feeling increasingly “disillusioned and alienated”.