After the two-day meetings of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Punjab MLAs concluded on Tuesday, the state unit stood clearly divided into two camps — those in favour of former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and those who are neutral and owe allegiance to the party, not an individual. Between the two, state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa stood largely isolated.
Of the remaining 20-odd MLAs who met Rahul on Tuesday in two batches, the first comprised the young brigade from Malwa, most of whom belong to the neutral side, such as Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Gurkirat Kotli, Parminder Singh Pinki and Randeep Singh Nabha. However, crediting Amarinder as a tall leader who cannot be ignored, they said the party should not be held to ransom by infighting and they would work with anyone the party appoints to lead them.
Even Randeep Nabha, an Amarinder detractor, said the former CM had a very high stature and should act like an umbrella for the party. “But the interests of the party should not be sacrificed before personal, vested interests,” he told Rahul, who reportedly agreed with the view that discord should end if the party was to regain power in Punjab. Sensing the mood, MLAs like Pinki, Balbir Sidhu and Jagmohan Kang too endorsed the view that the Congress needs to fight Badals and BJP, not each other.
The last batch of MLAs comprised senior leaders and had its share of those belonging to the neutral and Amarinder camps. While Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar, Lal Singh, Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, Karan Kaur Brar and Hardayal Kamboj openly backed Amarinder, seeking a change of guard, others like Brahm Mohindra and Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring preferred to tread the middle path. Mohindra, who too has no love lost for Amarinder, said the people of Punjab wanted to see the Congress united and the party’s authority should be enforced.
Former Punjab CM, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, battled both sides, hailing Amarinder as a popular leader but denouncing the “tendency” of leaders to speak openly against those appointed by the party.
One MLA who did rise to the defence of the beleaguered state unit chief, albeit obliquely, was Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, who said state leaders should not have the right to challenge the authority of the party. Terming Bajwa and Amarinder's power tussle a result of “misunderstandings”, he said it should be sorted out at the earliest.