The fortunes of the past and present chiefs of the Punjab Congress have changed since the parliamentary elections catapulted Capt Amarinder Singh to the status of deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
The former Punjab CM is now openly questioning the leadership of his successor, Partap Bajwa, who has so far maintained a stoic silence on the salvos.
Making preparations for the visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Punjab on October 16 along with AICC general secretary in-charge of Punjab, Shakeel Ahmed, Bajwa on Tuesday said as the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, he could not cross the “Lakshman rekha” by giving into provocation.
“I have been given the responsibility to lead the party and bring it back to power in Punjab. I cannot weaken it by giving into provocative remarks and getting into a verbal spat. I am galvanising the state and district units as Punjab wants to see the back of the ruling Badals and the Congress has to work in the interest of people of the state,” Bajwa said.
Rahul’s visit is being seen as an attempt to stem the growing infighting between the two camps. It is learnt to have been planned by Bajwa after Amarinder made an unsparing attack on him last week calling both him and secretary in-charge of Punjab, Harish Chaudhary, as defeated leaders and one blind man helping another.
While Amarinder and Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar have been able to woo a majority of party MLAs in their favour, Bajwa is creating his support base among district and block-level office-bearers, most of them his appointees, who Rahul takes feedback from during his every visit.
And it is Bajwa’s attempt to assert his control over the state, district and block-level committees that has made Amarinder restive, claims an MLA loyal to the PPCC chief.
“The Captain tries to take the sting out of all movements launched by Bajwa. He punctured Bajwa’s demand for a CBI probe into the drug racket after revenue minister Bikram Majithia’s name was taken by druglord Jagdish Bhola. When Bajwa started his state tour before the Lok Sabha polls, Amarinder, who had never met party workers ever, started his tea parties. Now, when the Congress is once again on the upswing in Punjab as the ruling SAD-BJP alliance is in trouble, Amarinder is busy taking potshots at Bajwa. He is clearly working for the interests of Badals than the Congress. In fact, Amarinder is trying to threaten the party high command into submission. We, too, have enough ammunition against the Captain but we do not want to fire it as it will only embolden the Akali-BJP leadership,” said the MLA, requesting anonymity.
Amarinder, who makes no bones about valuing the post of the PPCC chief more than that of the deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, would have preferred coming at the helm of affairs a year before the state elections.
But Bajwa’s attempt to appoint new secretaries in the state unit and serve disciplinary notices on “errant” district and block-level leaders close to Amarinder has raised his hackles.
Party insiders attribute Amarinder’s exalted status of deputy leader in Lok Sabha after defeating BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley to Bajwa’s “inability” to return the Captain’s fire.
“He is trying to show he is choosing to ignore Amarinder’s outbursts while the fact is he cannot afford to. Not only has he failed to take anyone along, including Amarinder, he has alienated himself by his autocratic style of functioning. This turf war was started by him,” one of the MLAs who claim allegiance to Amarinder said.