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After mass exodus, leaky Congress boat about to overturn in Punjab

IANS | October 02, 2022 10:04 AM

CHANDIGARH: With the mass exodus of leaders, comprising loyal and veteran lawmakers, and the sudden rise of the saffron brigade in Punjab, the weakened Congress, which faced a humiliating ouster at the hands of greenhorn Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators in the recent Assembly polls, is a boat about to turn down, political observers believe.

They say the party, which had been making waves till the helm of Capt Amarinder Singh, a BJP man now, has been reduced to a marginal player with one "immature" and "childish" decision by central leadership like razing to ground 100-metre-high Noida twin tower -- taller than Delhi's iconic Qutub Minar -- in seconds like a pack of cards.

In a legislative House of 117, the Congress, which won 77 seats in 2017, managed to win only 18 this time with most of its stalwart faces like former Chief Minister Charanjit Channi and state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu facing humiliating defeat from their respective strongholds.

The BJP, which had won three seats in the 2017 when it had contested in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), secured only two seats this time, while SAD won four and the others won one.

Interestingly, Channi is missing from the political scene after biting the dust, while Sidhu, the blue-eyed of the Gandhis, is undergoing a one-year jail term in a road rage case of 1988 in which one person was killed.

The latter is politically finished after his conviction.

In the present lot of legislators, a tug of war of supremacy is on between senior-most leader Partap Singh Bajwa, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in the state assembly, and firebrand young face and three-time legislator Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, who is the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief.

On most of the party affairs, both Bajwa and Warring are not on the same page, admitted a senior Congress leader, resulting in a fight for one-upmanship and lack of strong leadership and well oiled organisational machinery.

"The party leadership has all dressed up with nowhere to go. The cadre at grassroots is demoralised and confused too, " added the Congress leader.

Accepting his defeat with all humility, Congress rebel and two-time Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, whose outfit Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) had fought the elections in alliance with the BJP, had said people of Punjab had rejected communal and divisive politics of the Congress by first rejecting one leader as the chief minister for being a Hindu and then trying to play the caste factor.

He was purportedly referring to the appointment of Channi, the state's first Dalit Chief Minister, overlooking then former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar.

Prominent Hindu face Jakhar, who played a crucial role in strengthening the party's organisation at grassroots under the helms of Capt Amarinder Singh, had defected from the Congress and joined the saffron brigade.

Well ahead of announcement of the chief minister's face by the Congress for Assembly polls, Jakhar had spilled beans by saying Sidhu and Channi were least favoured as the Chief Minister's probable after Capt Amarinder Singh's exit.

He had said he was the first choice with 42 of the 79 legislators favoured his name, replacing incumbent Capt Amarinder Singh in September 2021.

Riding high on the Modi wave, Capt Amarinder Singh, whose wife Preneet Kaur is still a Congress MP, is saying he has a mission to accomplish after joining the BJP.

"I have a mission to accomplish and that is to work for the interest of the state and the country, " he said.

Addressing his maiden press briefing last week after joining the party, Capt Amarinder Singh said he wanted to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party President J.P. Nadda.

Besides thanking Modi for opening the Kartarpur Corridor and withdrawal of three agricultural laws, he said the Prime Minister has special fondness for Punjab as whenever as Chief Minister he met him with any demand for the state, he readily accepted it.

"The Congress realised his importance after the devastating 2022 drubbing and defeat when it was reduced from 82 seats to mere 18, " said a Congress rebel legislator, who too joined the BJP.

Describing the Congress and the BJP as twin faces of the same coin, Cabinet minister and AAP leader Aman Arora accused Congress leader Bajwa of working secretly for the BJP to implement their dubious agenda in the state.

"The House was supposed to transact business till 3.30 pm but the Congress had failed to raise any issue in the session and preferred to disturb it. The session was extended from one to four days only on the request of Opposition members, but they did not utilise the time properly, " he told the media.

Dubbing Partap Singh Bajwa as Partap Singh 'Bhajpa' (BJP), Arora said he is working at the behest of the BJP and they want to implement 'Operation Lotus'.

Slamming the Congress for its irresponsible behaviour in the House on Friday, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said Congress leaders have wasted the precious time of the House by frequent disruptions.

The Congress leaders have mercilessly wasted the taxpayers' money by creating ruckus during the proceedings of the House.

Mann categorically said there "is no difference between the BJP and the Congress".

"As a matter of fact the fake Congress has emerged as the B-team of the saffron party. Earlier, the Chief Minister of the Congress had ruled the state at the behest of the BJP and now the entire Congress party is acting on directions of the saffron party, " he added.

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