The six-member fact-finding panel constituted by the Congress high command held series of meetings with the Congress leaders on Thursday to assess the reasons behind the poor performance of the party in Punjab during the recently concluded parliamentary polls.
The party high command was forced to set up a five-member panel headed by Himachal Pradesh cabinet minister Col. Dhani Ram Shandil (retd) after the Congress could post victory only on three Lok Sabha seats of the total 13 it contested from Punjab.
The members include Haryana cabinet minister Aftab Ahmed, former Delhi PCC president Subhash Chopra, MLA Jaikishan, MLA Devendra Yadav and PPCC, general secretary Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha.
The panel summoned Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, the Congress nominee from Fategarh Sahib, Joginder Singh Pangraian, from Faridkot and PPCC, president, Partap Singh Bajwa from Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency.
The Congress had lost from all the aforesaid parliamentary seats. While Dharamsot and Panjgraian lost from AAP candidates, Bajwa was defeated by the BJP nominee.
Sources revealed that during its close door meet, which went on in the Punjab Congress Bhawan at Chandigarh for more than two hours, all Congress leaders blamed factionalism coupled with half-hearted support from the Congress leaders as the major reasons behind their poor show in the Lok Sabha polls.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Pangraian, who lost to AAP candidate Prof. Sadhu Sadhu Singh, said that he told the panel that unless the senior leadership came together and put up a united face, it would be difficult for the Congress party to revive its electoral chances even in 2017 assembly polls.
“In my constituency, the party has gone down in Moga, Bagha Purana and Nihal Singhwala assembly segments. The local Congress leaders failed to galvanise the voters despite a strong anti SAD-BJP alliance sentiment in Punjab and hence failed to get adequate vote share from their respective assembly segments. So unless Congress comes together and contest polls with the united front, there is a bleak chance of its good political prospects,” said Panjgraian.
Dharamsot, who lost from Fategarh Sahib Lok Sabha seat against AAP candidate Harinder Singh Khalsa, told HT that in his case, too, the Congress MLAs failure to garner support for Lok Sabha candidates was the prime reason behind the party’s defeat.
“I lost by more than 42,000 votes from Raikot assembly, which the Congress had won by nearly 5,000 votes in 2012. Same was the case in Amargarh and Bassi Pathana assembly segments. There was also a strong wave in favour of AAP. Now after the polls we realize that majority of the teachers, doctors and youngsters polled for AAP. Why the Congress could not capitalize on the anti-Akali sentiment? It’s our party’s failure.
And factionalism within the party has also cost us dear”, Dharamsot told the panel during his meeting.
Bajwa, who lost from Gurdaspur seat from BJP’s Vinod Khanna, being the Punjab Congress chief had already submitted a six page report to party president Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed on the reasons behind his defeat. He, too, has blamed the factional ridden Congress as the prime reason behind the defeat and sought intervention of the high command to instill discipline in the party for better electoral results.
The panel has also called CLP, leader Sunil Jakhar, Preneet Kaur, Vijay Inder Singla and Harminder Singh Gill on Friday to assess the reasons behind their defeat.