Chandigarh, October 14: The official residences of the Punjab chief minister and the leader of the opposition are separated by a common boundary wall. House No 45 in Sector 2 is the designated residence of the Punjab chief minister. However, the next house is not designated as such but it happens to be the residence of Congress Legislature Party chief Charanjit Singh Channi whose predecessor Sunil Jakhar was also allotted this house after the same was vacated by former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal following court order. Earlier, there used to be a road separating house no. 45 and No 46 but that road is now part of chief minister’s residence. It has been so for years. The road was encroached on the logic of security considerations.
Channi led a group of MLAs around noon yesterday to the gate of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to stage dharna. It may be mentioned that protests by common people are not allowed in this high security zone. They sat there and shouted slogans. The demand was suspension of a police official of the level of superintendent of police posted in Ludhiana and withdrawal of false cases against Congressmen. He had stopped Congressmen led by party MP Ravneet Bittu from erecting effigy of Ravan in white symbolising “chitta”, the household name for a drug. Akali activists were with the police or it could be the vice versa. Several Congressmen who received injuries have been booked under Section 307. The Congressmen refused to budge from burning effigy of “chitta’ Ravan. The police wahted it to be painted black. Now the demand also includes the immediate transfer of Ludhiana police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh.
Badal came out to meet them twice but did not accede to the demand for the suspension of the SP. He offered probe. Congress leaders refused to budge. The dharna was continuing till late in the evening.
The MLAs led by Channi slept on the road itself. Capt Amarinder Singh joined them today morning. After all, he is emerging as the main claimant to house No. 45 where he has lived once for five years from 2002. Badal normally uses the back gate.
Although the Congress has been on the rise of late by default, this indefinite dharna at the gate of the chief minister’s residence has taken the fight to entirely a new level. It is no more a fight against “chitta”. It is the race for entering that residence. Loss of Aam Aadmi Party is gain for the Congress. It was AAP that was on the rise till it hit the turbulence that was split following suspension of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur. Now the party is besieged by revolt in several constituencies where the candidates announced so far are facing formidable opposition. AAP did not stick to the criteria of selection by the people.
Amarinder had planned his strategy according to which the campaign is to peak by November end. AAP started early and the party is now huffing and puffing as is the case with the athlete who exerts in the beginning itself in the long race.
The Congress has turned more confident following the telecast of a survey by an English news channel last night that gave edge to the party, though not majority. Capt Amarinder Singh emerged as the best choice for the office of the chief minister followed by Parkash Singh Badal. Only 3 per cent people who were part of the sample survey favoured Sukhbir Singh Badal who is the de facto chief minister. Amarinder is associated with taking stand on issues and providing better governance. It may be mentioned that AAP had started its campaign in Punjab quoting some survey that gave the party 100 seats. The party continues to quote that. One has to wait for Sukhbir’s survey. It is a battle of perceptions.
At the empirical level, the number of addicts might not be that much as the opposition is claiming. But it is too well known a fact that every kind of drug, smack and poppy husk as available at the door step. Parents are worried about their children. In the survey, this has emerged as the main issue in the state.
Ironically, the Badal government has fared well on the development front, especially on roads. But then that is what any government is supposed to do.
Addressing the MLAs at Badal’s gate, Amarinder went to the extent of issuing threats. It is to be seen whether he too is booked or not. Chief Minister’s residence is under the jurisdiction of the Chandigarh police.