Paradox apart, it is strange and amusing that Punjab Congress chief media panellist Bir Devinder Singh, otherwise supposed to present and highlight the party’s point of view in a positive way, has chosen to start his new job with a vicious and wishful obituary of the party itself in his guest column (‘Can Cong rescue itself before Punjab polls?’) in Hindustan Times on March 29. Let us get the fact straight. Some “sulking, uprooted” leaders must be feeling demoralised, disgruntled and disillusioned, but certainly not the rank and file of the Congress which is as enthused and excited as Mr Singh wishes it to be, but refuses to acknowledge for reasons best known to him and everybody else.
A seasoned leader as he happens to be, Bir Devinder has the political experience and exposure, having travelled across the wide political spectrum from the Congress to the People’s Party of Punjab, to the Akali Dal and then back to the Congress and may be a possible future adventure somewhere else. No wonder, such “insightful and thoughtful” revelations can come from such “distinct and exclusive experience” only. However, he has sought and tried to twist facts, and appropriate his individual grudges to the entire party cadre. His personal grievance, of not getting any green signal to be accommodated either in the Fatehgarh Sahib or Ghanaur assembly segment apart, the common Congress worker remains in high spirits despite the attempts to prove to the contrary by people like Bir Devinder.
He has rightly admitted that there is an “upsurge in favour of the Congress” as was proved in the Badlaav Rally in Bathinda on December 15, with over five lakh people attending it. Then what has changed since then in three months that makes him believe, rather wish, that the Congress is on the “threshold of decline”. Does Bir Devinder want and expect that such rallies be held every weekend? Instead of trying to write a “maliciously wishful obituary” of his own party, he should have waited for the Baisakhi rally at Talwandi Sabo on April 14 that will break all records.
Though I owe no explanation to such leaders about whom we are not sure whether they will be in the party till the publication of this article, still let me set the record straight. I have always been available to workers and leaders. The presence of thousands of workers at the PCC office in Chandigarh, at my residences in Patiala, Chandigarh and Delhi and at party programmes and meetings is an irrefutable testimony against Bir Devinder’s misplaced beliefs. Yes, I am available to the right kind of people at all times. Of course, I don’t encourage anyone trying to sabotage a loyal party worker’s prospects, particularly when that worker or leader has remained loyal to the party and to his people in the constituency against someone else who has hopped from one party to another in an apparent bid to “airdrop” at the last minute and undo everything that the loyal worker/leader has been doing during the last nine years despite being out of power.
Vicious and wishful thinking of disgruntled people and ‘doomsday mongers’ apart, the Congress continues to remain in firm saddle in Punjab. This is reflected in the response we get among the masses wherever we go for our party programmes. None of the programmes was cancelled; they were only rescheduled.
Breach of trust
Yes, I am not without faults and I am prone to committing mistakes also, in trust and good faith. And probably that is how I ended up committing the mistake of rehabilitating someone desperately struggling in political wilderness and appointing him as the chief media panellist, who surprisingly starts his new stint in doing quite contrary to what his job demands him.
By the way, Bir Devinder happens to be the complainant in the false complaint related to the Amritsar Improvement Trust, in which I have been made an accused. It was for this case that I was arbitrarily expelled from the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. My expulsion was later set aside by the Supreme Court with strong strictures against the Akali government with whom Bir Devinder had connived. Interestingly, he remains the complainant in the case and we have been trying to rehabilitate him and he still feels aggrieved merely because I could not attend to his phone call.
Having said this, let me put it on record that let nobody, particularly the chronic cases of habitual indiscipline, have any doubts that they can indulge in such grave indiscipline and get away with it. If anybody still persists with such indiscipline, strict action will be taken against him.
(The writer is the Punjab Congress president and Amritsar MP. Views expressed are personal)