Gloves off in Cong after Punjab defeat

Gloves off in Cong after Punjab defeat

It has lost but still fighting. Ironical as it may sound, but it is the state of affairs in the Punjab Congress these days.

Having lost the Assembly elections to the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, the gloves are off for top leaders of the Congress who are openly targeting and blaming each other for what they call a ‘surprise’ defeat.

Several leaders have started gunning for Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh, blaming him for the party missing an opportunity to come back to power. But their clamour has come at a time when he, right on day one of the loss, took the entire blame on himself.

The outburst against one another came even after the Congress high command asked them not to go public with their differences. Amarinder, after all, had to be the fall guy. It was he who was breaking from the Congress tradition of not naming a leader for the chief minister’s post before the election was over but was named as the Congress man for the post by none other than powerful Rahul Gandhi.

The voices of dissent against Amarinder have come from former chief minister and his bête noire within the Congress, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa, Jagmeet Brar, defeated legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira and many others.

In the Congress office at Faridkot, party leaders even blackened the face of Amarinder on a poster last week. It is not only Amarinder who is drawing flak for the defeat but his coterie of advisers too. Many senior Congress leaders say this coterie, led by millionaire legislator Arvind Khanna, who is related to Amarinder, made the state Congress chief inaccessible even to top leaders.

Bhattal even accused Amarinder and his coterie of collecting over Rs 500 crore in the run-up to elections. “I want to know where this money has gone,” Bhattal said.

But Amarinder, who has not shown any inclination of stepping down as the state Congress president, has defended his coterie. He said senior leaders needed advisors to function. “If Bhattal can show me from where all the money came, I will let her know where it has gone,” Amarinder retorted.

The final word on having or not having a leadership change in Punjab Congress has to come now from the party’s central leadership.

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