Congress calls for united opposition in Punjab
After a spell of relative dormancy for the past few months, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh has called for the opposition to rally together against the "misrule" of the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
The call comes in the wake of the state government announcing the imposition of fresh taxes, including property tax, to mop up an additional Rs.900 crore each year to meet its growing expenses.
Soon after that announcement, Amarinder Singh invited opposition parties, including Manpreet Badal's Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP), Communist parties and others to join hands as a united opposition, and said he would "not rule out a political alliance in the future".
Even though the PPP had joined hands with other smaller parties in Punjab under the banner of Sanjha Morcha ahead of the assembly elections earlier this year, it had fared badly in the polls.
Manpreet Badal had quit the government of his uncle, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in October 2010. He had broken away from the Akali Dal over ideological differences relating to issues of governance and subsidies, and launched the PPP ahead of assembly elections in Jan 2012. The party, however, failed to win even a single seat. Manpreet Badal, a four-time legislator, failed to win either of the two seats he contested.
Even so, the Congress leadership hopes that an alliance with the PPP could help it garner greater political space.
"Everything is possible in politics and I don't rule out a broader political alliance in future," Amarinder Singh said.
He said he had spoken with all the political leaders, including Manpreet Badal, Joginder Dayal of the Communist Party of India, Avatar Singh Karimpuri of the Bahujan Samaj Party and others. "All of them had shown serious concern over the plight of the common man in the state, burdened with heavy taxes," he said.
A Congress spokesperson said Amarinder Singh's call was "aimed at a specific purpose and a minimum programme only." He added that even though the option of a political alliance could not be ruled out for the future, for now the call was one aimed at a limited alliance.
Amarinder Singh has been touring different districts of the state since Sep 2. He has called all opposition parties to launch protests against the government Friday (Sep 7), against the imposition of fresh taxes.
The Sanjha Morcha, after a meeting, politely declined the offer of a united protest, saying that there was not enough time to prepare for it.
Amarinder Singh, however, said that the Sanjha Morcha had not turned down his invitation. "They only said that the time was too short for such a protest," the Congress leader maintained.
The Sanjha Morcha is also protesting the fresh taxes, and has already announced that its protests would be held on Sep 21.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)