The leadership tussle may be far from over but incumbent Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa has got a breather, at least until the party decides on a successor.
Flanked by party secretary Harish Chaudhary and Bajwa, the Congress general secretary in charge of Punjab, Shakeel Ahmed, announced on Thursday here that the former was firmly in the saddle.
“There is no confusion in the Congress in this regard. Bajwa is president of the Punjab State Congress Committee (PPCC) as long as he enjoys the confidence of party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Even I heard it first on television channels that he was being replaced. Will it be done without keeping the general secretary concerned in the know of things?” Ahmed told the media here.
He neither gave a direct reply to questions on whether the change of guard was under consideration nor said if Bajwa could stay at the helm with a sense of finality. Ahmed’s message was: Until Bajwa is not changed, he is state Congress chief.
On the demand of former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh for ousting Bajwa, Ahmed said the party leadership knew his sentiments and Amarinder had never said that he wouldn’t abide by what the party decides.
Asked if Amarinder’s open statements against Bajwa did not tantamount to breach of party discipline, he said Captain had a national stature as deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
“I am in no position to comment on his statements. There is a disciplinary committee at the national level headed by former minister AK Antony, and it has to take note. So far, it has not found anything to be taken note of,” said Ahmed.
A visibly mellowed Bajwa, later while speaking to media on the sidelines of party’s brainstorming session, attributed his earlier statement of wanting a say in the naming of successor to media frenzy.
“I also got disturbed by the repeated news that I was being replaced, when I had not been taken into confidence,” he said. Also downplaying his differences with Amarinder, he said he too had an invite to the wedding of the latter’s grandson but only his wife, Charanjit Bajwa, had been able to attend, since he had a pressing engagement.
Meanwhile, none of the Congress MLAs (35 out of 43) or district party presidents (16 out of 22) at the session touched the leadership issue in the discussions. Only senior legislator Lal Singh, a frontrunner to replace Bajwa, voiced his anguish over “vested interests” raking up the Lokpal case in the media after 17 years.
“I am not in the race for the PPCC president. I am a true soldier of the Congress and will take whatever responsibility the party bestows on me,” he said. He has not been announced, so far, as Bajwa’s successor, yet most MLAs were treating him as one. Bajwa, later, quipped that Lal Singh had both Bajwas on his side, meaning himself and Amarinder loyalist Tripat Bajwa.