BB Bahl, president of the Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee (CTCC), was publically embarrassed by a number of local leaders during a workers' meet held in the presence of senior leader Shakeel Ahmed, in-charge of Congress affairs in the UT, on Sunday.
Though none of the leaders spoke against three-time sitting MP Pawan Bansal's candidature, many questioned Bahl over the "opaque" manner in which the formality of choice was carried out. The working style of Bahl, who heads the party election committee, attracted some anger too.
It all started with CTCC general secretary Pawan Sharma's address, in which he said block-level, rural and booth committees of the Congress were lying defunct: "On the other hand, the BJP's focus is on the booth level." He claimed that none of these committees was informed about the workers' meet. "At the party office, all you can see is dogs sitting outside locked premises," he remarked, but did not question the candidature of Bansal, reportedly cleared on October 2.
Councillor Devinder Babla then said, "With all due respect, I just want to say that the (election) committee's formation and working were not proper." He supported Bansal's candidature, but questioned Bahl's working. Another CCTC member, Bhupender Singh, said, "Bahl saab, aisi harkatein nahi karni chahiye (Mr Bahal, you should not carry out such antics)." But he also sang praises for Bansal.
In his turn, Bansal neither supported Bahl nor said anything about the candidature. Rather, he chose to pat his own back over his achievements as MP and during his stint as railway minister.
A hurt Bahl spoke briefly, but hit back: "I have been following the agenda for 15 years, and will serve as the CTCC chief for another 15 years. I challenge him who was saying that I do not sit in my office: Come and sit with me here. Let's see who can sit for a longer period."
In a belated dousing of flames, Shakeel Ahmed said, "I have been told of some problems by local leaders, including the election committee's working. We should discuss these internal issues within the party."
He also praised Bansal and made several references to Bansal's stature in the party. "Chandigarh has been the first place where I found that leaders say the same thing that they say in Delhi.
Otherwise, people come to Delhi often to complain…and it shows his (Bansal's) leadership quality and popularity," he said. While leaving, Ahmed said, "I have not received any other application for the party ticket from here. Also, not a single leader has gone against Bansal's candidature. The matter now rests with the party's central election committee."
Asked whether Bansal's alleged role in the railway post bribery scam - in which his nephew was arrested whil taking `90 lakh as bribe leading to Bansal's resignation as minister - could have a bearing on his ticket prospects, Ahmed said, "He (Bansal) has not been convicted. There are so many others against whom cases are going on."
Another leader present in the meeting, Asha Kumari, former education minister of Himachal and now Congress MLA, also praised Bansal, saying that he had worked for the entire region.