Stung by criticism of the state party leadership, Capt Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) here on Monday passed a resolution to initiate strict disciplinary action against party workers who make politically-motivated statements to tarnish the party's image.
Amarinder had summoned a meeting of party office-bearers to draw a strategy to "embarrass and corner" the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government during his seven-week-long tour of the 117 assembly constituencies in the state.
It turned out to be a show of strength by the under-fire PPCC chief. Of the 46 party MLAs, 29 turned up for the meeting. Of the 71 candidates who lost in the January 30 assembly polls, at least 42 were present. As many as 23 of the 28 district Congress committee (DCC) presidents attended the meeting.
Among the nearly 200 office-bearers and workers of the PPCC who had gathered to chart the course of Amarinder's Punjab tour, there was a strong sentiment against those who bring disrepute to the party by holding clandestine meetings to remove the high command-appointed PPCC president.
Lal Singh, PPCC vice-president, first raised the issue of open dissidence and indiscipline spreading in the Punjab Congress and how the party must take strict action against such elements who are playing into the hands of the SAD-BJP government.
The moment Lal Singh raised the issue, PPCC office-bearers raised their hands in unison and overwhelmingly supported the move. They wanted the vice-president to bring a resolution in this regard to teach a lesson to those indulging in anti-party activities.
Soon, a resolution was moved that the party must take strict action against those who defy discipline and issue "out-of-turn" public statements.
The PPCC passed another resolution that all office-bearers and party workers would ensure "impressive" gatherings, not less than 10,000 at each protest demonstration held against the state government at the district level. "The number could grow, but it should not be lower. We know that people are fed up with the SAD-BJP government but are scared to come out on the streets because of the fear psychosis created by the state police and its goons. Help them come out on the streets and protest against the misrule of the SAD-led government," the resolution said.
The PPCC spokesman said the turnout of MLAs, defeated candidates and DCC presidents clearly showed that "despite the hoopla being created by a small group of people to dethrone Amarinder, the majority still considers him the undisputed leader."
Conspicuous by absence
Senior party leaders such as Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Partap Singh Bajwa, Jagmeet Singh Brar, Shamsher Singh Dullo, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Rana Gurjit Singh, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi and Kewal Singh Dhillon did not attend Monday's PPCC meeting.
The PPCC spokesman said four of the seven vice-presidents, namely Rana KP Singh, Lal Singh, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and Ashwani Sekhri, were present. Of the 10 PPCC general secretaries, four were present: Aruna Chaudhary, Vikram Bajwa, Harminder Singh Jassi and Fatehjang Singh Bajwa.
"We received messages from general secretaries Arvind Khanna, Kushaldip Singh Dhillon and Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi that they were out of station. Ramesh Chander Dogra is indisposed. Only Gurbinder Singh Atwal abstained from the meeting," said a PPCC office-bearer.
'Capt authorised to act'
Prof Darbari Lal, chairman, PPCC disciplinary committee, when asked what action the party would initiate against dissident leaders who had openly challenged Amarinder's leadership, said only the state party chief was authorised to act against such elements.
"We cannot act against such elements on our own unless someone gives a written complaint against the dissidents. If the party president asks the chairman of the disciplinary committee to act against such elements, only then would I initiate action," he added.