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Congress's decision to opt out of Khadoor Sahib is a good move

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:30 IST

Khadoor Sahib bypoll

  • Cong has opted out of Khadoor Sahib bypoll
  • That\'s a good move, observers say

The issue

  • Cong left the seat on the issue of desecration of Granth Sahib
  • The party will now focus on 2017 Punjab Assembly polls

More in the story

  • What is there for the Cong in it?
  • How does this affect SAD?

In a long-term strategic move ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections due next year, the Congress decided not to contest the Khadoor Sahib by-election on 13 February.

State Congress chief Capt. Amarinder Singh dispelled rumours that the party would field Ramanjit Singh Sikki for the by-election, and said the party would boycott the poll.

Just a day before, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed announced Sikki's candidature formally in Delhi.

Also read: Khadoor Sahib by-poll: a precursor to Punjab assembly elections

The move is being seen as a politically correct maneuver for the larger battle ahead.

"Although party president Sonia Gandhi cleared Sikki's name, she left the final decision with the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC)," Amarinder said.

Sikki resigned from the Khadoor Sahib seat in protest against the desecration of the holy book. He was not keen to recontest but said he would enter the fray if the party leadership ordered.

'Sonia Gandhi cleared Sikki's name, but she left the decision with the state unit'

Currently he was carrying out sewa (a voluntary religious service) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, something which he does every year.

According to the Congress, the people of Punjab felt let down by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government on the incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at villages in Faridkot, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran and Ludhiana last October.

Subsequent to the desecration at Bargari village in Faridkot, two persons were killed; several were injured in Behbal Kalan village of the district on 14 October when the police opened fire at some 200 protestors.

Also read: Punjab is prosperous. Yet the youth want to flee to the West illegally

"Since the basic issue of the sacrilege of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib, for which Sikki resigned, still remains unresolved, the Congress party decided there was no point contesting the election," Amarinder said.

"Not a single person has been identified, leave aside punishing them for the sacrilege. Nor has any action been taken against the guilty police officials responsible for the firing and killing of peaceful protestors."

According to the PCC chief, Prakash Singh Badal's government never goes to the bottom of things. "It was Badal's decision to have some sort of controlled destabilisation in the state," he said while pointing that the government wanted to distract people for its failure on all fronts.

The Congress wants a commission under a sitting judge to probe the incidents immediately.

For the Congress, a probe was more important that winning the election. "It is a matter of conscience . Everyone believes that peace should remain, but the sacrilege will take precedence," Amarinder said.

Observers said Congress's move would put the Akalis in a spot as the party will have a lot of explanation to do when it campaigns for candidate Ravinder Singh Brahmpura, the son of Ranjit Singh Brahmpura - the sitting Lok Sabha member from Khadoor Sahib.

Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal has started an aggressive campaign for Brahmpura.

With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) already having opted out of the contest, SAD is likely to have a cake walk. The other contestants include two AAP rebels Bhai Baldeep and Sumail Singh Sidhu who are contesting as independents. Swaraj Abhiyan, the organisation, led by former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, is supporting Bhai Baldeep in the battle.

Also read: Yogendra Yadav's Swaraj Abhiyan goes political, to debut in Punjab by-poll

According to some observers, by giving the by-polls a go-by, the Congress has signalled that its focus is on the bigger battle. The AAP has adopted the same strategy.

It is true that Sikki's reelection would have put the SAD on the back foot, but a result to the contrary would have raised questions on Amarinder's leadership. He took the reins of the party jus a couple of months ago.

Giving the by-polls a go-by, Cong signalled its focus is on the bigger battle

The SAD would have gone all out to win this seat in the Sikh heartland to give out the message that it stood for the Panthic agenda.

But by announcing a 'boycott' on the religious sentiment issue, the Congress has turned the tables. The boycott, anyway, doesn't mean Congress leaders would not go the constituency and raise the issue among the people.

More in Catch:

Also read: Punjab has space for a third force. Why did Manpreet Badal fail to fill it?

Also read: Kejriwal's mega Maghi show leaves Congress, Akalis a worried lot

Also read: Sweep Stakes: AAP emerges as a serious contender in Punjab assembly polls

First published: 27 January 2016, 10:44 IST