Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has again trained his guns at state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa, saying that only a leadership change in the Punjab unit will save the party as the current dispensation is not in a position to win the 2017 assembly polls.
“He (Bajwa) has been there for about two years now, see the graph of the Congress. It is totally on the downslide. It is strange that while the graph of the Akali-BJP government is going down, so is ours,” Amarinder told HT in an interview.
“We have not been able to capitalise on the unpopularity of the Akali government. Ask a common man on the street and he will tell you what ails the Congress in Punjab,” he added.
The widening rift between the two leaders is taking a heavy toll on the faction-ridden Punjab Congress at a time when the party has got the ammunition in the form of the drug menace to attack the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The issue has even strained ties between the old allies – the SAD and the BJP – with political analysts predicting that they could part ways before the 2017 assembly elections.
The Amritsar MP rubbished Bajwa’s charge that the Congress lost the 2012 Punjab elections under his leadership despite huge anti-incumbency against the Parkash Singh Badal government.
“In 2012, we faced a nationwide anti-Congress sentiment because of the Anna Hazare movement and the 2G (spectrum) controversy. Punjab bore the brunt as it was the first state to go to the polls post the Anna movement,” he said.
In a departure from its past practice, the Congress declared Amarinder as its chief ministerial candidate in 2012 but the gamble did not pay off as the party suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of the SAD-BJP combine.
“In 2012, 39 tickets were allotted against my recommendations, of which we lost 32. Bajwa got six tickets, of which he won just one, that of his wife,” Amarinder added.
Rubbishing media reports that he would quit the Congress in case Bajwa is not removed, Amarinder said he could not attend Tuesday’s Congress Working Committee (CWC) deliberations due to some communication goof-up as he did not receive any information about the meeting.
Asked if he would accept a neutral candidate as the new state unit chief, he said there were several capable and competent people who could lead the party and were acceptable to the rank and file. “The choice is the prerogative of the Congress president,” he added.