New Delhi: With renewed focus on use and smuggling of drugs in Punjab in the wake of the controversy around the movie Udta Punjab, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has asked the party’s state leaders to corner the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government on the issue in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Gandhi is set to hold a public meeting in Jalandhar on Monday, where he is expected to highlight it as an election issue, blaming the state government for the deteriorating law and order situation.

The party said that it had always sought to highlight the drug problem in the state, but agreed that the controversy over censoring Udta Punjab has given impetus to the issue. “We have always raised this issue. Rahul Gandhi has made it amply clear to the party cadre in the state that we need to highlight it, the kind of impact it has had on the youth and the socio-economic repercussions. His rally on Monday is in a way putting out our support on the issue of fight against drug and the Congress party will continue to raise it," said a senior party leader aware of the developments.

Gandhi has been invited to join the day-long dharna (sit-in protest) being organised by the Congress state unit, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, on Monday.

The party vice-president will reach the city before noon to join the dharna.

With former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh being the face of its campaign, the Congress party is looking to wrest power in Punjab after a gap of one decade from the ruling SAD-BJP combine. The party feels three issues—law and order, drug issue and farm distress—would be the focal point of the elections in the state scheduled for next year.

In March this year, Gandhi visited Amritsar and attended the screening of Fading Glory, a documentary film on Punjab’s drug problem. At the end of it, he commented on the issue and said that if voted back to power, the drug issue will be the top priority of the Congress party in the state.

Punjab was among the top five states in the country in terms of seizures of opium and heroin in 2014. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, in 2014, 556 kg of opium and 636 kg of heroin were recovered in Punjab. However, Punjab isn’t alone when it comes to drug menace, which is a significant problem in Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Assam as well.

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