Chandigarh, December 10: A section of the Punjab Congress leaders seems to be working on a single point agenda and that is to see the party defeated in February 2017 election. This section is least worried about this election being ‘Now of Never’ for the party in the state as the Congress would be wiped out in case of third consecutive defeat. Adding to the worry of the party high command is the likely dissidence in a number of seats once the candidates are announced.
The committee consisting of state party chief Capt Amarinder Singh, AICC general secretary Ambika Soni and Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Singh Channi has been tasked with identifying potential dissidents and take remedial measures by making some offers and this is one of the main reasons for holding back the release of the first list despite finalising candidates in about 80 seats.
This committee would also look into the situation in the remaining seats from where the candidates are to be finalised. Except for about two dozen seats, there have been multiple claimants on every seats. Sahnewal has 21 applicants from where the choice has narrowed down to a woman Punjabi singer. It may be mentioned that the most notable claimant from this seat was Vikram Bajwa, son-in-law of former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. He lost the chance of getting ticket following criteria of one-family-one-ticket. Bhattal’s name has been cleared from her traditional seat of Lehragaga.
The opposition publicly expressed by some senior leaders opposing tickets to turncoats gave the impression that the Congress continues to be faction-ridden. Interestingly, Manpreet Singh Badal contested the last Lok Sabha election on Congress ticket despite the fact that he had not joined the party. He formalised his shift to Congress much later.
It was a blunder on the party of Capt Amarinder Singh to induct Sarwan Singh Phillaur from the Akali Dal as he had been dropped from the cabinet by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as Enforcement Directorate started probing him in money laundering case associated with drugs. Some others too who were dropped by the Akali Dal have joined the Congress. This has rattled the Congress leaders who have been working over the years on the seats from where these people earlier with the ruling alliance are to be accommodated. Dissidence in such cases is normal. However, equally damaging is the perception among the people about the party being divided. The target of some senior leaders is to target Capt Amarinder singh.
The entire campaign revolves around him but Capt Amarinder Singh has not so far been formally declared chief ministerial candidate. This announcement might have curbed such voices. The problem with several political parties including the Congress is that the leaders who are rejected by the people get accommodated in the Rajya Sabha.
Capt Amarinder Singh had been repeatedly saying that the candidates would be announced about six months before the election. However, in practice, there is no change in the functioning of the party. This time the party wants to first take the preventive measures to contain possible dissidence. It may be mentioned that in 2012 elections, dissidents had done a lot of damage. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal is expert in taking advantage of such situations. It is different matter that the Akali Dal too is suffering from this problem this time but others can’t exploit this situation as Sukhbir is liberal in making investment. His approach is that of a corporate honcho.
In this context, the desertion by singer Hans Raj Hans is the symptom of the disease although he might have lost credibility for jumping from one party to another. He today joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. The had earlier publicly expressed his resentment at a public meeting. His grievance related to inadequate representation to the Valmikis at every level. He belongs to Valmiki community. Now the Shiromani Akali Dal has moved to appropriate this vote bank with the Badal constructing big Valmiki temple at Ram Tirath near Amritsar. A new idol of the saint has also been installed. This idol was taken around the entire state before its installation.
The political layers are shifting fast. The Congress had last time lost the election by self-goal. Now is the last chance. Rahul Gandhi would have to assert to put down factionalism in this do or die battle.