Punjab congress chief Amarinder Singh, after inducting Akali leaders Inderbir Singh Bolaria and Upkar Singh Sandhu into the party, has said that more leaders including the Akali Dal are waiting to join Congress.
On the question of a possible tie-up with cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife, Singh said that they were "welcome" but needed to abide by "party discipline."
"The exodus of leaders from the Akali Dal has just begun, and it will keep going on till the elections," he said. Assembly polls are due in Punjab early next year, and the Congress is looking to bank on strong anti-incumbency in the state to defeat the ruling SAD-BJP combine.
Denying charges by the opposition that the Congress was using inducements to lure away SAD-BJP leaders, Singh said that both Bolaria and Sandhu had joined the party on their own accord.
"It is actually a homecoming of sorts for Bolaria," he said pointing to the Akali strongman's family ties with the Congress. Bolaria's father had worked closely with the Congress, before joining the Akali Dal.
Bolaria - a two-time legislator from Amritsar - was expelled by the Akali Dal in April, after he launched an agitation against the commissioning of a solid waste treatment plant in his constituency.
Singh justified the burning of effigies of Akali leaders by Congress workers, saying "everyone believes the Badals (chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal) to be the embodiment of evil."
Last week Congress leaders and party workers were assaulted in Ludhiana during a protest march by "Akali goons" Singh further alleged.
"The whole of Punjab believes them (the Akalis) to be worse than Ravan and it is not wrong to compare them with him," he said.
Expressing hope that the Congress would do much better than in the last assembly elections, Singh said that Akali Dal was likely to face a landslide loss as its leaders and workers were feeling increasingly "disillusioned and alienated".