Within days of former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Capt Amarinder Singh kicking off a parallel state tour even as incumbent Partap Singh Bajwa's tour is on, there is more trouble brewing in the faction-ridden party after the high command's recent lunch diplomacy.
While the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader holds a meeting of the MLAs before every assembly session, setting a new precedent, Bajwa has called a meeting of "senior" MLAs to decide the agenda and strategy for the assembly session starting on October 28.
Interestingly, the letter dated October 24 by the PPCC landed in the e-mail accounts of senior MLAs on Thursday, inviting them for a meeting at Punjab Bhawan on October 26 at 11.30am.
On Wednesday, CLP leader Sunil Jakhar had told mediapersons that the agenda and issues would be decided at a meeting of the party MLAs on the first day of the five-day session on October 28.
Jakhar had also met speaker Charanjit Atwal to demand that the session be extended and gave him a list of issues of "urgent public importance" that the opposition wanted to discuss in the assembly.
The parallel meetings are likely to fuel a fresh game of one-upmanship between Bajwa and Jakhar, who openly professes his proximity to Amarinder. Even with a history of PPCC presidents and CLP leaders not getting along, all earlier Punjab Congress chiefs had left the prerogative of deciding the session agenda to the CLP leader. As for Amarinder, his presence in the CLP meetings had been a rarity, both as party chief and as an MLA.
When contacted, Punjab Congress vice-president Charanjit Channi said he had received the mail from the PPCC office on Thursday morning. "It says the meeting will finalise the strategy and issues to be taken up by the CLP in the forthcoming session," the Chamkaur Sahib MLA added.
Though the close aides of Jakhar said Bajwa did not take the CLP leader into confidence before calling the meeting, Jakhar steered clear of the controversy saying he learnt about it through the mail on Thursday. "I was to be out of town but will now try to attend the meeting," he said.
In the budget session held in March, Bajwa, then newly appointed as the PPCC chief, had attended the meeting chaired by Jakhar in the CLP office on the assembly premises. The Gurdaspur MP had then invoked Congress MLAs to take a pledge at the Golden Temple in Amritsar of boycotting ministers of the ruling combine. The rather aggressive stance -- Congress MLAs had roughed up the watch and ward staff following a "raid" at the CLP office for sneaking in the Tarn Taran police assault victim -- had seen the session ending in a washout.
Bajwa's meet to discuss Khaira-NK Sharma faceoff?
According to sources in the Punjab Congress, Bajwa has called a meeting of MLAs to decide whether the issue of chief parliamentary secretary NK Sharma's "shady" land deals be raised in the assembly. Former Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira, appointed by Bajwa as spokesperson, had held a series of press conferences to expose how Sharma's real estate projects "flouted" environment norms and "robbed" the state revenue department of crores of rupees.