Turmoil in Congress as 2 Rajya Sabha MPs rebel against Amarinder Singh, high command yet to intervene

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Updated: Aug 13, 2020 12:58 PM

Congress' Rajya Sabha MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo have revolted against Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, but the party's central leadership has appeared reluctant to make an intervention to settle the dispute.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. (file pic)

A fresh storm appears to be making its way into the Congress with tension between the senior Punjab Congress leaders and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh beginning to simmer again. According to a report in The Indian Express, even after 10 days since Rajya Sabha MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo revolted against Amarinder, the Congress’ central leadership has appeared reluctant to make an intervention to settle the dispute.

Both Bajwa and Dullo have been attacking their own Congress government in the state over the hooch tragedy. At least 95 people have died in Punjab after consumption of spurious liquor. Police have arrested a total of 37 people involved in the worst hooch tragedy the state has witnessed in three decades.

The Rajya Sabha MPs even met Governor VP Singh Badnore and demanded a CBI or ED probe into the incident.

The IE report said that turmoil within the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee comes at a time when a new political formation is taking shape.

The party suspects a BJP hand behind SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s attempt to form a new Akali Dal. The leaders belonging to Amarinder Singh believe that Partap Singh Bajwa’s rebellion is part of his plans to leave the Congress. Bajwa, however, has refuted the charge strongly.

Sunil Jakhar, PPCC chief, has sought action against Bajwa and Dullo. The entire Punjab cabinet on Thursday also called for their expulsion for indulging in anti-party and anti-government activities.

Jakhar said that both the Rajya Sabha MPs have crossed the ‘lakshman rekha’ and he is awaiting directions from the high command. According to Jakhar, he has sent a detailed report to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi seeking disciplinary action against the duo. However, Sonia is yet to refer the matter to the disciplinary committee or summon the leaders to broker peace.

The Congress leadership’s silence has surprised many within the party. The IE report said that the party leadership is reluctant to intervene. The development comes close on the heels of the crisis in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The leaders feel that this is bad optics and could be fatal for the party in Punjab ahead of Assembly elections 2022.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress leadership didn’t intervene on time to broker peace between the Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia. The delay resulted in Scindia joining the BJP and the Congress government was shown the door. In Rajasthan as well, the Congress high command brokered peace a month after Sachin Pilot rebelled.

Similar is the situation in Punjab where both the sides are attacking each other viciously and the party leadership is silent.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Bajwa said that if Amarinder is not replaced, the party will meet the same fate as the Congress in West Bengal under Siddhartha Shankar Ray. Ray had served as the West Bengal Chief Minister between 1972 and 1977. When Assembly elections were held in 1977, the Congress lost and has not returned to power since then.

“The Titanic sank as its captain was partying and could not see the iceberg and (the ship) collided with it. If the Congress continues with these two captains (Amarinder and Jakhar), they both will sink the party’s ship in Punjab. If a decision is not taken, the Punjab Congress will go the Titanic way,” Bajwa told the daily.

Last week, Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab, Asha Kumari, visited the state to take stock of the situation after Bajwa and Dullo met the Governor. It is, however, not clear yet whether Asha Kumari has submitted a report to Sonia.

Lashing out at Jakhar, Bajwa said that nobody has come out in Amarinder Singh’s support since “Dullo and I raised issues confronting Punjab”. He said that Amarinder’s popularity is the same as that of the Badals at the fag end of the term of the previous SAD government.

Bajwa demanded that the Congress MLAs be called to Delhi to express their views in private with Sonia and Rahul. He also rubbished charges that he was speaking against Amarinder Singh as part of his strategy to leave the party.

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