For an erstwhile royal and army captain, nothing is more difficult than “holding his fire”. But deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Capt Amarinder Singh is trying to do so after his recent outbursts against Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and secretary in-charge for Punjab, Harish Chaudhary, ended up in Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visiting the state to preach unity to the warring factions.
So, the lobby of Bajwa detractors led by Amarinder has decided not to “open fire” at the Punjab Congress chief but resort to only covert operations. Amarinder has been advised by his trusted lieutenants, including some senior MLAs, to avoid attacking Bajwa in public as it only gives ammunition to Bajwa to report “indiscipline” to the high command and get their sympathy.
But the self-imposed ceasefire has the Patiala royal in knots as he is struggling not to do what he was so far doing with relish. On Monday, while touring Amritsar from where he is a member of Parliament, Amarinder asked his confidant MLAs till when was he expected to respect the “ceasefire”. He was advised to do so till “Bajwa falls under his own weight”. Though Amarinder did target Bajwa last week on the presence of “unlawful elements” during Rahul’s visit on October 16 to Congress Bhawan, at the Jat Mahasabha conference, he refrained from any personal attack.
A senior MLA close to Amarinder said, “Bajwa was one of the most trusted people in Amarinder’s durbar when the latter was the Punjab CM. Amarinder used to enjoy Bajwa’s wit and humour. It was only after the Congress lost elections in 2012 did Amarinder realise that he was not to be trusted and was eyeing his chair. After Bajwa replaced him, Amarinder made his dislike for Bajwa public.
But his open attacks are only helping Bajwa to complain to the high command that his efforts to revitalise the party are being sabotaged by Amarinder. So we have requested him not to speak against Bajwa, who cannot match the charisma and popularity of Amarinder among Congress leaders, cadre and people of Punjab. So before the state elections, the party will have to replace Bajwa.”
Another senior MLA whom Amarinder asked to brainstorm on the oust-Bajwa strategy in New Delhi after Rahul’s recent visit to Chandigarh, too, advised him the same caution. “We told him to stop the open attacks. It was only weakening the party. We have to first win elections to have a chief minister from Congress. Bajwa will fall because of his own doings as he is not a leader who can take people along. He speaks against people as soon as they are out of the room. No wonder, he has made more enemies than friends,” said the MLA, requesting anonymity.