The Congress' defeat in the Moga byelection is set to trigger a blame game, with Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Capt Amarinder Singh sending showcause notices to three sitting MLAs and a former minister, asking them to explain why they remained absent during campaigning.
Those under fire are MLAs Kaka Randeep Singh Nabha (Amloh), Brahm Mohindra (Patiala-2), Rakesh Pandey (Ludhiana) and former minister Avtar Henry (Jalandhar). They have been told to file their replies by March 5.
The Captain has done his homework while issuing the notices. In the notice to Randeep, he has mentioned the dates/time recorded in the visitors' book of the Chandigarh Golf Club to prove that the MLA was busy on the greens during campaigning. Amarinder has also mentioned news reports about the golf club brawl allegedly involving Randeep, who had been given the charge of three polling booths in Moga.
In the notice to former MLA Henry, the Captain has written, "You went missing in the last four days before polling, leaving the area unmanned, giving a direct advantage to the rival party."
In all four notices, Amarinder has stated that it is unbecoming of a senior party leader to remain absent from party activities, while asking the erring leaders to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.
"It's not a blame game. The notices were despatched on February 25, three days before the bypoll result," Amarinder told HT.
"It's a matter of party discipline and dedication. The entire Congress leadership, including me, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Jagmeet Brar and Partap Singh Bajwa, stayed in Moga for campaigning. However, Henry left the booths assigned to him four days before the byelection, while Randeep, who cited illness for his absence, was busy playing golf. Some other MLAs also failed to turn up or made just a customary visit," the state Congress chief said, adding that he would forward the leaders' replies to the party high command, recommending stern action against them.
Randeep was not available for comment, while Mohindra said he was yet to receive the notice. "I will give a reply when I get it," he added.
A Congress leader who received the notice said, "It's a pick-and-choose policy adopted by Amarinder to target his opponents. Why has he not issued such a notice to his son Raninder Singh, who is the party general secretary and has fought the parliamentary as well as assembly elections from the Malwa region," the leader asked, requesting not to be named. He said Amarinder should resign from the PPCC chief's post instead of issuing notices.