Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh today welcomed all the "anti-Badal forces" into the Congress fold for the "betterment of the state". "Not just (Awaaz-e-Punjab supremo Navjot Singh) Sidhu, but all those committed to Punjab's governance, to whichever party they may belong, are welcome to join the Congress unconditionally," he said, responding to questions from reporters on the possibility of the merger of Sidhu's front with the Congress. "I have always maintained that whoever has the interests of the people of Punjab at heart and is ready to embrace the Congress values unconditionally, can come to us and we will accept them with open arms," Amarinder said. The coming together of all the anti-Badal forces ahead of the state Assembly polls early next year would pave the way for the betterment of Punjab which had been "thrown into a state of total apathy and backwardness by the current Akali regime", he claimed and urged all of them to come together on the Congress platform to save the state from the "regression" into which the ruling SAD-BJP combine had "plunged" it. "I am happy to welcome into the Congress all those who are ready to work for the betterment of the state and in the interest of promoting positive governance," Amarinder said, adding, "We are already witnessing a strong pro-Congress wave in Punjab which is drawing many people from various parties into the Congress fold." Disillusioned with their current political affiliations, many people from other parties were making a "beeline" to join the Congress, he claimed, adding, "This is a positive development which will pave the way for more like-minded people to join the party in the coming days." The state Congress chief said his party would carefully examine all such requests and applications against "stringent benchmarks" before allowing anyone into the party sphere. "Only those who identify with the Congress culture and are prepared to work within its disciplinary ambit will be allowed to join," he added. In response to a question on AAP's prospects in the upcoming state Assembly polls, Amarinder dismissed it as a "party of crooks who want to use Punjab for their vested political interests". "After playing their dirty games in Delhi, which is already suffering from AAP's misgovernance, they are now trying to do the same in Punjab," he said, adding that AAP's "game-plan" was already "exposed" to the people of Punjab. The acts of sexual and other misconduct of various AAP leaders were no secret, Amarinder said, while referring to reports that AAP leaders in Punjab were asking for "sexual favours from women in exchange of poll tickets". "The people of Punjab are intelligent enough to distinguish good from bad and will give a befitting lesson in the polls to all those who have been working to the state's detriment," he added.
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