Congress remains divided house in Punjab
Chandigarh September 21:
Even before Congress president Sonia Gandhi selected a leader to head the party unit of Punjab, a section of party rank and file has revolted against the one-line resolution authorising her to take the final call, though Union Minister Preneet Kaur favoured the appointment of former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh as the Punjab Congress unit chief.
They also dared the party leaders to act against them if they can, suggesting the state of affairs in the Congress in Punjab. Though all factions in Punjab Congress are leaving no opportunity to show each other down in the run up to the selection of Punajb Congress chief, the tussle among them on Monday got a new twist with Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur throwing her weight behind her husband and former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
There is hardly any talk about any action against those who revolted against the party’s one-line resolution to authorise Sonia Gandhi to take the final call as to who would head the Punjab unit of Congress. These party workers were the supporters of former Patiala Mayor Vishnu Sharma, a detractor of Captain Amarinder. Talking to mediapersons at Bujrak village in Patiala district on Monday after visiting a dozen of flood affected villages, Preneet Kaur said that there was no other alternative left in Punjab to fight the present State Government.
“I think Captain Amarinder Singh is the best leader to lead the Congress in Punajb to an astounding victory by exposing the misdeeds of the current regime. The final decision will be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi as all the delegates have authorised her to select the president,” said Kaur. Commenting on the allegation of former Patiala Mayor Vishnu Sharma regarding deletion of his name from the delegate list, she said that every Congress man has worked hard for the membership drive and everyone was not supposed to be accommodated.
The supporters of Vishnu had raised slogans against Captain Amarinder Singh outside the Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh on Sunday. Sharma blamed Captain Amarinder for his exclusion from the list, an allegation which the supporters of the former Chief Minister outrightly rejected. The party’s vocal legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira was also denied an opportunity to raise his objections to what he described as an unfair process of election of delegates.
He fully supported the resolution authorising the Congress president to nominate the next PPCC chief, as the move might resolve the factional problems. A sustained campaign has already been launched in Punjab to ensure that the post of the State Congress president went to Captain Amarinder or a leader of his choice. The headquarters of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) is splattered with posters, sending a strong message to bring Captain Amarinder Singh back and the save the State of Punjab.
The party rank and file have been waiting for the appointment of a full-fledged State unit chief for quite some time. The present incumbent - Mohinder Singh Kaypee - also Congress MP from Jalandhar reserved constituency, has been functioning as a stop gap arrangement for many months. Kaypee enjoys the overt and covert support of the detractors of Singh. The third most important player in the cog of Punjab unit Congress is former Chief Minister and leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. During the last Lok Sabha election, Amarinder Singh was the chairman of Punjab Congress Election Committee.
Whosoever becomes Punjab unit Congress president will be tasked with uniting various warring factions. It was a major problem the party faced during the last Lok Sabha election, when the party could win only eight out of 13 seats. The party needs a strong leadership in Punjab to galvanise the cadre to stand up against a resurgent SAD. The SAD-BJP broke the myth that a party or an alliance could not win respectable number of seats against anti-incumbency factor by retaining five Lok Sabha seats in the last election, while the Congress had lost 11 parliamentary seats in 2004 to the SAD-BJP while being in power.
In Punjab, 117 Assembly seats are at stake. In the 2007 Assembly poll, the BJP had won 19 seats and SAD 48, totaling 67, which gave the alliance absolute majority to form Government. The remaining seats went to the Congress and Independents. The task before the Congress in Punjab is enormous. The 2007 Assembly performance, which saw the Congress almost sweeping Malwa region, could not be repeated in the Lok Sabha poll, where the Congress won only Patiala parliamentary seat.
The Congress did better in the Lok Sabha poll in Doaba and Majha region, where the party had cut a sorry figure in the Assembly election. The party leaders attribute the 2007 Assembly election success in Malwa region to Dera Sacha Sauda factor, which did not support the Congress in parliamentary poll.