It was a meeting with no agenda. But it ended with a clear message: Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa has the unflinching support of both the general secretary in-charge for Punjab, Shakeel Ahmed, and secretary in-charge Harish Chaudhary.
In a face-saving exercise, Ahmed first apologised and then justified the change of venue of the meeting called by Bajwa in Chandigarh to New Delhi on Saturday. A Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee release after the meeting read, "Ahmed said at the meeting that he had directed the PPCC president (Bajwa) to call a meeting of senior MLAs to discuss issues to be taken up in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. Ahmed also said that he was not able to come to Chandigarh due to paucity of time and had asked Bajwa to shift the venue to Delhi."
However, while the agenda for Saturday's meeting called by Bajwa was to decide on issues and the strategy for the assembly session, no discussion on the same took place. Avoiding to term it a turf of Congress Legislative Party leader Sunil Jakhar, Ahmed left it to the MLAs to decide the strategy and issues. The meeting, for which senior MLAs were called to Delhi at a short notice, instead discussed the slow procurement of paddy. It was decided to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to demand specifications for moisture and discoloration in paddy be relaxed.
Ahmed's cover-up was followed by secretary in-charge for Punjab, Harish Chaudhary, going a step further. After Ahmed spoke about deputing senior Punjab leaders in poll-bound Delhi and Rajasthan, Batala Congress MLA Ashwani Sekhri raised the issue of infighting within the state unit. "If we go to a rally of former Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh, we are seen as his loyalist and if we go with Bajwa, we are seen as his loyalists," he said. This led Chaudhary to shout at Sekhri. Making insinuations against Bajwa's detractors, Chaudhary said, "We know who are trying to play by proxy. They will all have to pay for it."
Though it silenced Sekhri, the tone and tenor of Chaudhary's remarks fuelled a fresh controversy as some senior MLAs took objection to it.
Interestingly, while Ahmed and Chaudhary did the face-saving, Bajwa kept mum. The only time he spoke was when Jakhar directed a barb at him saying he would demand an inquiry into the controversy over the realty business of chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma during the assembly session.
Jakhar said since Sharma too has spoken about Bajwa's realty business, it should not be construed as he (Jakhar) was gunning for him (Bajwa). To this Bajwa said that he was ready to face any inquiry and Jakhar could rake up the issue in the assembly.
Bhattal guns for Capt in his absence
The Delhi lunch once again gave dissenters an opportunity to voice their grievances. Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal chose to attack Captain Amarinder Singh, who though invited was not present at the meeting. Demanding that rules should be the same for all, she said Amarinder had raised a hue and cry when she had played a friendly cricket match with the Badals. "Now his son Raninder is openly embracing and inviting Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia at a shooting tournament," she said.
Patiala (rural) MLA Brahm Mohindra targeted both Amarinder and PCC chief Bajwa. "Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal has made such insulting remarks against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul but not a word has been uttered against her by our brave leadership," he said, attacking Bajwa. He then shot a salvo at Amarinder, saying he never bothered to meet farmers or workers as the PCC chief. Now as a Congress Working Committee member he is touring Punjab," Mohindra added.
Bites and barbs
We know how humble those who are called humble are.
We also know who is playing by proxy through whom and how.
All such people will have to pay. - Harish Chaudhary