The persistent cold weather conditions notwithstanding, the lone bye-election for the Moga Assembly constituency in Punjab, has succeeded in generating major heat in the political arena as leaders from the rival Akali and Congress camps have launched no holds barred attack on each other.
The bye-election for the seat, where polling is scheduled for February 23, was necessitated after the resignation of the sitting legislator, Joginderpal Jain, who had won on a Congress ticket in the general elections for the State Assembly. While the Akali Dal has decided to field Mr Jain, the Congress has nominated a senior leader, Vijay Kumar Saathi, to defend the seat.
According to a party release, the president of the Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh Badal while expressing confidence for imminent "historic victory" advised the Congress to begin preparations for the "shok shivir" at Moti Palace, which is the traditional residence of the scion of the royal family of erstwhile princely State of Patiala, Captain Amarinder Singh, who head the party's Punjab unit.
After he welcomed a group of Congress workers and supporters into the Akali camp at Khosa Pando village, Mr Badal said that Moga by-poll were the first test for the Congress after its ‘Chintan Shivir’ at Jaipur. He said that a "Shok Shivir" would provide an opportunity for the Congress chief to shed "real tears" for the party that was heading towards complete decimation much before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
While reiterating the development agenda of the ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance, where he is the Deputy Chief Minister as well, Mr Badal charged that the Congress MLAs were instructed by their high command to hinder all the development activities initiated by the present State government. He said that it was the track record of the Akali Dal to keep its promises that motivated the people re-elected the present alliance consecutively.
Mr. Badal regretted that some Congress leaders sought to mislead the electorate through claims that all the development projects of the State government were funded by the Centre. He said that actually the Congress led UPA Government had haemorrhaged Punjab by taking away 70 percent of central taxes collected and returning only 1.3 percent, that too as a loan. The Akali Dal had been demanding review of revenue sharing formula to allow States a minimum 50 percent in the central taxes collected from the respective State.
An equally combative Captain Amarinder Singh while interacting with journalists announced his decision to "stay put" in Moga till the last vote was cast. While he would move to the nearest place outside the constituency and adhere to guidelines from the Election Commission, which did not allow outsiders once the campaigning was over. Capt Singh would supervise all efforts by the Congress to prevent the Akali Dal from using illegal means to influence or intimidate the voters.
Countering the development plank of the Akali Dal, Captain Singh expressed concern that Akali ministers were linked to every act of crime in the State. He cited revelations that the Panchayats and Rural Development minister, Surjit Singh Rakhra had shielded the rapists in the Patiala incident, where the victim had committed suicide. He said that earlier, the Revenue Minister, Bikram Singh Majithia's supporters were involved in Amritsar and Ludhiana incidents, where an ASI of police was shot and an AIG was beaten up.
Captain Singh recalled that earlier, the Agriculture minister, Tota Singh was convicted by a trial court for misusing his authority during his previous tenure as Education minister. Similarly, Bibi Jagir Kaur who held the portfolio for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation was found guilty by a special CBI court for forcing an abortion of her daughter, who died in wrongful confinement.
The former Chief Minister said that while the Congress had its resilience, it was the Akali Dal, which had a record of disintegrating regularly. Sensing the "mood of the people" he was confident that Moga would prove to be Sukhbir Badal's waterloo. He said that a revolt within the Akali Dal was brewing, which would ultimately lead to its disintegration as well as the fall of the "most incompetent government ever." He said that quite a few senior Akali leaders were waiting to settle scores with their present chief.