The no-holds-barred war of words between Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh and senior party leader Bir Devinder Singh escalated on Thursday with the latter being suspended from the primary membership of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee even as party’s poll strategist Prashant Kishor tried to resolve the crisis by meeting him in the evening.
Amarinder also recommended action against senior leader Jagmeet Brar for his recent acts of “indiscipline” to the party high command.
Being a member of All India Congress Committee (AICC), only the party president Sonia Gandhi can take action against Brar.
“In view of the recent media reports and your anti-party activities, you are thereby suspended from the primary membership of the PPCC with immediate effect,” said said the PPCC notice to Bir Devinder. “A panel headed by MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa with MLA Ajaib Singh Bhatti and former MLA Rana KP Singh as members has been constituted to look into the matter. You have to reply to the committee by April 7 as to why further action should not be taken against you,” it added.
Thursday’s action was culmination of the Capt-Devinder spat triggered by the latter’s guest column in Hindustan Times on March 27 accusing the Congress chief of being “ inaccessible”. Next day, Amarinder hit back in his piece , prompting Bir Devinder resignation from the party’s media panel.
In the evening, Prashant Kishor and Devinder had an hour-long meeting at the Chandigarh airport before the former left for New Delhi.
“I got a call from Prashant in the evening. He met me and said he was worried over the developments and emphasised that the issue should be resolved amicably and we should not escalate it further. He had come to meet me with authority from the party high command and knowledge of Amarinder,” Bir Devinder said, refusing to divulge any further details of the meeting.
On the vigilance probe into the Amritsar land scam, Bir Devinder said he has refused to depose before the Punjab vigilance in the case.
“I received the summons from the Punjab vigilance bureau on March 8 to appear on March 11 for recording my statement. I have communicated to them that the FIR is based on the house committee report of the 13th Vidhan Sabha of which I was not a member. The Punjab and Haryana high court has ordered a reinvestigation into the case saying matter be probed independently (without reference to report of special house committee). I had given my statement to the special House committee and have no locus standi left in the case after the HC judgment,” Devinder said.
However, hinting that his options are open, he said, “If Amarinder continues to call me the complainant to harm my political career, I will move the HC to challenge the reinvestigation ordered by it into the case on December 22, 2014 and plead to be made a party. The Punjab government will have to explain how its additional advocate general accepted the terms of Amarinder’s counsel,” he added.
On suspension, Bir Devinder said he has yet to receive the notice but is not “worried” about it.
“If suspended by party, I will not be able to fight elections and will fight the case in the court then. Amarinder must have used all his sagacity and wisdom to suspend me and I think he, too, must be a sad man today,” he added.
The diatribe of Brar and Bir Devinder against Amarinder has also split the Congress ranks with many senior leaders supporting the beleaguered leaders.
“Amarinder is getting a taste of his own medicine. He got away with nothing less than the Punjab Congress presidency after his open attacks on Partap Bajwa. How can the party adopt two different yardsticks --- let Amarinder get away and suspend others,” a senior Congress MLA said.
Reacting to Bir Devinder’s suspension, Congress general secretary in-charge for Punjab affairs Shakeel Ahmad said no indiscipline will be tolerated. He, however, refused to comment further by saying that it is an internal matter of party.