Journalist Jarnail Singh’s size-9 Reebok shoe may have missed P. Chidambaram on Tuesday, but two days later, it brought down two Delhi political heavyweights, Congress MPs and candidates Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.
“Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar will not be the Congress candidates in the Lok Sabha elections,” announced Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi on Thursday. Here is what he didn’t say: they had been asked to step down.
But that was later in the evening. The day began with the run up to a Delhi court case on allegations of Tytler’s involvement in the 1984 riots. It was postponed to another date, amid protests and burning of effigies outside court premises.
Outside courts again, claims and counterclaims flew thick. Protestors alleged being pushed around by Tytler’s men and the Congress leader alleged he was being targeted. News channels had a busy day.
Later in the afternoon Tytler told a news conference at his house, “In my heart I know this incident has embarrassed my party and me and I would not like to contest the elections.” That was the first indication of things to come.
And then the Congress leader said he was leaving it to his party. His party, however, was not forthcoming immediately. Its leaders had been in a huddle for the last two days starting with the shoe throwing at its head office on Tuesday.
The party had taken the position that its president would decide after she returned from campaigning down south. She returned Wednesday night, and consultations began in earnest. They had to close the issue quickly.
“Sonia had assiduously built bridges with the Sikh community over the last few years,” said a source not authorised to speak to reporters, adding, “she was anxious to protect this relationship from further damage.”
Something had to give here.
The Punjab unit of the party chipped in, telling the central leader very bluntly: get rid of Tytler and Kumar. The party is likely to do well here in the elections and let’s please not do anything to spoil our chances.
Former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who is spearheading the Punjab campaign panel, told Delhi the resurrection of 1984 had upset the Sikh youth, who form roughly 65 per cent of the electorate in the state.
If they dumped the Congress, Singh argued, it would be difficult to ensure the victory of the three GenNext candidates handpicked by Rahul Gandhi — Ravneet Singh Bittu, Sukhwinder Singh Danny and Vijay Inder Singla.
Singh was not exaggerating. Desperately fighting anti-incumbency, the ruling Akali Dal had very quickly latched on to the shoe throwing incident -- deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal was almost constantly on news channels talking up the issue.
Party seniors didn’t need any more convincing now. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee and political secretary Ahmad Patel were entrusted with the task of talking to Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.
While the shoe-thrower was protesting CBI’s clean chit to Tytler, Sajjan Kumar got pulled in because of allegations of involvement in the riots against him. “Mukherjee and Patel conveyed to them Sonia’s anxiety,” said a source.
Kumar didn’t make any public statements, but Tytler did, saying he was leaving it to the party. And then later qualified it by saying his heart tells him not to contest. And he will not.
Their replacements will be named shortly.