No rival political party in Punjab has faced revolt of the kind the Punjab Congress is facing after announcing 114 candidates for the January 30 assembly elections.
Though top state party leaders dismiss this as “initial reaction” and sign of the Congress staging a comeback in this border state, the growing noise of rebellion continues to be the main cause for concern for the party think tank. In fact, the magnitude of this current rebel episode of the Congress has eclipsed all other political events, including the initial rebellion which had hit the SAD too.
While Congress leaders are busy visiting the houses of rebels to quell this revolt, the political activity in the party is gaining a new momentum and direction. But this undercurrent of dissent continues to be the greatest disadvantage of the Congress, as of now.
“Yes there are some initial reactions which will calm down in due course of time. By and large, the list (ticket) has been very good,” says Capt Amarinder Singh, star campaigner of the party. He accepts that at some places there were more than one deserving candidates. Capt has assured all those denied ticket of suitable rehabilitation if Congress forms the government.
According to reports reaching here, the Congress is facing rebellion—major as well as minor—in over 30 constituencies of the total 117 segments.
This resentment has come as a boon for CM Parkash Singh Badal, who inflicted his first psychological blow when PPCC chief Capt Amarinder’s younger brother Malwinder hugged SAD, severing his 35-year-old ties with the Congress over denial of ticket.
On Monday, SAD gave ticket to another Congress rebel, Sant Singh Brar, from Gidderbaha. In the 2007 assembly polls, Brar, 71, having denied ticket by the Congress, had contested as Independent and polled 26,177 votes, 6,000 less than the Congress candidate.
Attached to the outcome of the Gidderbaha result is the prestige of the Badals. Senior Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal will pull all the stops to put their main foe, Manpreet Singh Badal, chief of the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) on the mat in Gidderbaha, which Manpreet has won four times in a row as SAD nominee.
Former minister Gurkanwal Kaur, daughter of assassinated chief minister Beant Singh, has unfurled the banner of revolt, opposing the nomination of Jagbir Singh Brar. Brar had quit the SAD to float the PPP along with Manpreet and recently joined the Congress. Brar had defeated Gurkanwal in the 2007 polls by at least 17,000 votes.
“Some leaders denied ticket such as Gurkanwal Kaur met Capt Amarinder. The rebels’ tide is on the ebb now,” said an aide of Capt Amarinder.
While some rebels like former Pathankot MLA Ashok Sharma have threatened to contest as Independent, few are contesting on PPP ticket.
From street-corner discussions to heated debates among different groups of the party, there seems to be a general feeling that Delhi is “insensitive to the actual ground realities” of many constituencies. But some party leaders are surprised by this upsurge of rebellion. They said:
“This is a phenomenon we face in every election.”