Former Delhi legislator Amrish Gautam on Monday quit the Congress and joined the BJP, while former Congress Minister A.K. Walia threatened to quit over distribution of party tickets for the April 23 civic polls in Delhi. While AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari refused to comment on matters related to civic polls, senior Delhi Congress leader and former Delhi assembly Speaker Subhash Chopra admitted to “some resentment”, but said “true Congressmen will not desert the party”. Chopra also said Walia did not threaten to quit and that words were put in his mouth.
Former Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely and former Minister Haroon Yusuf also expressed concern over functioning of Delhi Congress headed by former Union Minister Ajay Maken. Gautam, a three-time legislaor from Kondli in east Delhi, accused the Congress of not consulting him on candidates. His son Avinash Gautam too joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. “We were feeling cornered. Nobody was willing to listen to our concerns. My self-respect was hurt by senior party leaders like Anand Sharma, P.C. Chacko and Ajay Maken,” Amrish Gautam told IANS after joining the BJP.
The Congress had formed a committee headed by Sharma to select candidates for elections to Delhi’s three municipal corporations. Chacko is in charge of the Congress affairs in Delhi. “I requested Maken many times to respect the workers’ sentiments and to take decisions in the interest of the Congress and its workers. But he ignored me,” Gautam told reporters. “I quit because my area and supporters were ignored. I felt neglected.”
Senior Delhi Congress leader Walia too threatened to resign. “I am deeply pained… we keep trying their (leaders) phone numbers for two-three days but there is no reply.” He told media persons: “Today (Monday) was the final day (of filing nominations) and things have not been finalised yet. If they think they don’t need us, they should tell us. Earlier, such things never happened in our party.” Walia said he had conveyed his anguish to the Congress high command.
Walia, a legislator from Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi for four consecutive terms, remained a minister in the Sheila Dikshit government. Lovely said: “It is very unfortunate that Amrish Gautam left the Congress while senior leader like Walia has threatened to quit. We need to respect senior leaders. If Walia leaves the Congress, it will be a major setback.” He said the party high command needs to address the issues.
Yusuf said: “I will also raise my concerns with the party high command. Whatever I feel, I’ll speak on the party fora.” “The local Congress leadership, including me, was ignored during ticket distribution. However, Walia ji can never go against the party,” he added. All India Congress Committee spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “It is an issue concerning the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee. We do not deal with corporation elections from this podium. All queries on MC elections should be addressed to the DPCC.”
Senior Delhi Congress leader Subhash Chopra said: “There is some resentment, which is natural. Those who did not get tickets, or senior leaders whose candidates were not given tickets, are bound to feel somewhat unhappy. But that does not mean they are quitting.” He said Walia did not speak even once of quitting the Congress. “I have spoken to him just now and he said he did not say anything about quitting,” the Congress leader said.
Chopra said Amrish Gautam quit as his son was not given a Congress ticket. “A candidate’s winnability and workers’ choice were the criteria (for giving tickets). As many as 39,000 Congress workers were contacted over phone before making the final choice,” he said.