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Congress, Akalis, AAP flex political muscles in Punjab 

Chandigarh, Dec 15 (IANS) Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and opposition Congress held political rallies on Tuesday in Patiala and Bathinda respectively while Aam Aadmi Party held statewide protests against the state government.

Hardliner Sikh leader Simranjit Singh Mann held a rally in Bargari village in Faridkot district, where sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib had sparked major protests and violence across the state.

Speaking at the rally in Bathinda, a stronghold of the Badals, newly appointed Punjab Congress unit president Captain Amarinder Singh said that the SAD was out to ruin Punjab.

Amarinder Singh, a deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, vowed to end drug pedalling and addiction in Punjab and punish the guilty, end corruption and cancel all false cases registered against Congress workers during the 10-year SAD rule in case his party returned to power.

The former chief minister asked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal to be ready for a big political fight in the next assembly polls, slated for early 2017.

The Congress rally saw faction-ridden state unit putting up a show of unity on the stage. Amarinder Singh was formally handed over reins of the party’s state unit by outgoing president Pratap Singh Bajwa.

Both leaders have been bitter critics of each other in the past.

Bajwa too lashed out at the Badals for “destroying Punjab”, saying the mammoth crowd at the Congress rally was a reflection of public anger against the Badals.

In Patiala, the hometown of Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister Badal and Sukhbir lashed out at the Congress and the AAP, and said both parties were trying to mislead people.

The Akali Dal leaders blamed the Congress for the recent violence and protests in Punjab.

The chief minister asked Amarinder to give up his “feudal mindset” and work to ensure peace and development in Punjab.

“Amarinder must refrain from using language that vitiates the congenial atmosphere in the state. I advised him to shun politics of confrontation and concentrate on politics of consensus to ensure overall development and prosperity in the state,” Badal said at the ‘Sadbhawna’ rally’ in Patiala, 80 km from here.

Sukhbir said the Congress had always been inimical to the people of Punjab.

The Akali Dal-BJP alliance government has been in power in Punjab since 2007. The state assembly’s present term ends in 2017.

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