Even as the Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh, has upped the ante in the ongoing old-versus-new-guard tussle in the party by saying openly that its leadership should stay with Sonia Gandhi, his bête noire, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa, on Sunday accused him of trying to “scuttle and sabotage” the elevation of Rahul Gandhi.
Amarinder, who enjoys a close association with Sonia and is uneasy about young brigade’s taking charge of the party under Rahul, had on Saturday almost dubbed the Congress vice-president a novice, saying: “Raw people cannot move upwards but have to gain experience by meeting people across the country. Only under Sonia’s leadeship can party regain lost ground and Rahul should remain number two.”
A day after, Bajwa, whom Rahul appointed to replace Amarinder in March 2013 and backed him against rising dissidence in the state unit, launched a no-holds-barred attack on the former CM, accusing him of “unleashing calculated and calibrated design to scuttle and sabotage” the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as party president.
In a press statement, he objected to Amarinder’s remarks that one could not make a generational change with a knife and cut them through. “The same could not be done at gunpoint as Captain was trying to do, as this was the fourth attempt by him in the past fortnight to derail the ascendancy of Rahul, who has been in Lok Sabha for long enough to gain experience and is well versed with the challenges faced by contemporary India,” he added.
Bajwa said though Sonia was the most venerable leader of the party, Rahul should be elevated as president to meet the needs and aspirations of present day. Questioning Captain’s motive, Bajwa said Amarinder was creating a schism in the party as part of some “ulterior” design, when the party was passing through testing times.
In a quick counter-attack, Amarinder told Bajwa to mind his own business and not distort his stand on the leadership issue in the party by “rumours”. He said Bajwa was trying to be more loyal than the king without understanding the ground situation.
Amarinder claimed he was never against Rahul’s taking over the party and would never be, “but this is not the right time for Rahul to take over the reins, as the situation and circumstances demand that Sonia should continue. As a Congressman and a well wisher of Rahul, I have no hesitation in saying that is in the interest of the party”.
He said the party would require someone seasoned and experienced to steer it back to glory from the worst-ever debacle. “Of late, Indian politics has got too much personality oriented, like in the case of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, and so the Congress cannot afford anyone else at the helm,” he said.
I know Rahul since his childhood and have all the affection for him like my son, and that is why I am being honest and forthright in my opinion to say what shall suit him and the party the best.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and that is precisely what Bajwa is fond of doing. If Bajwa thinks that I am trying to scuttle Rahul’s elevation, he is viciously and wishfully mistaken and he (Bajwa) surely is not going to gain anything out of it.
Rahul will take on radical and regressive forces and mobilise all sections of society, mainly youth. Generational change is part of the evolutionary process and the Congress has adhered to it from time to time. The same Rahul Gandhi had announced Amarinder as chief ministerial candidate before the 2012 assembly elections in Punjab, and in case he perceived him to be an inexperienced leader as he had made out now, he should have expressed his views then. It would also augur well for Amarinder to introspect on his own track record when it comes to the matters of accessibility.