The factionalism in the district Congress committee (rural) came to fore on Friday as the former minister Amarjit Singh Samra publicly demanded expulsion of former Congress MLA Gurbinder Singh Atwal for charging Rs 4 crore - Rs 2 crore each from the SAD (Badal) and the Congress - and still opposed him during last assembly elections to eventually cause his defeat against the first timer and Akali leader Gurpartap Singh Wadala.
Addressing the gathering in the presence of the Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, Samra dropped a bomb shell in the party rally by accusing that Atwal had been paid Rs 2 crore by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to oppose him during the last assembly elections.
"Subsequently, we tried to persuade him. The former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and I also paid Rs 1 crore each so as to make him work for the party. But, Atwal betrayed us by supporting Akali candidate despite being paid Rs 2 crore. I faced defeat due to Atwal's anti-party activities. Such persons are still claiming themselves to be the Congress leaders. Let the party expel Atwal without further delay," an emotionally charged Samra asserted, while leaving the audience into laughter.
Though several Congress leaders, including former ministers Chaudhary Santokh Singh and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, former MLA Jagbir Brar, too echoed the same concerns demanding action against such persons for anti-party activities, but Punjab Congress vice-president and MLA Tarlochan Soond reminded the senior party leaders to maintain decorum on the dais. "Why are you extending Atwal such an importance at a public function? Atwal is also a Congressman. The state president will look into the complaint and act accordingly," he told the gathering.
Bajwa, however, snubbed Samra for raising such an issue at a public forum. Indirectly referring to Samra's reported ties with the Akali minister Ajit Singh Kohar, Bajwa said though everyone was criticising Kohar from this dais, but "such" relations were proving costlier for the workers as well as for Samra. "We must maintain discipline in the party. We will look into the complaints," he asserted before shifting to praise Samra for arranging huge gathering.
Later addressing the mediapersons, Bajwa disclosed that the Congress general secretary and Punjab Congress affairs incharge has marked an inquiry into complaints lodged by Samra and another senior party leader against Atwal for indulging in anti-party activities. "I will seek versions of both the complainants and Atwal as well before submitting inquiry report to the high command.
The Congress president Sonia Gandhi will take a final call on this issue," he said. Sources said former minister Chaudhary Santokh Singh had also lodged complaint against Atwal.
Meanwhile, accusing the Badal family of controlling 90 percent stake in total passenger transport business in the state, the Punjab Congress chief demanded immediate roll back in bus fare hike and motor transport tax.
Addressing a meeting of party workers here, Bajwa, accompanied by former minister Amarjit Singh Samra, said that Badal government had increased 20% bus fare on October 13, 2012, effecting a hike of 13 paisa per kilometer. "The last two revisions in the bus fares had added about Rs 200 crore per year in Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's kitty and his close relatives in transport business," he said.
Bajwa said that the effective increase in bus fares would not be 10% due to 5% increase in the motor transport tax on mini bus operators. "It has been increased from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 annually. The step was taken to make the business unviable for self employed small transporters," he said, adding that mini bus permits were given by then Congress government to educated unemployed to operate in rural areas.
"The fleet of AC and luxury buses owned by ruling family has been exempted from hike in motor transport tax," he added.
He announced that Congress would launch an agitation against the hike in power tariff, bus fares and sand mafia. He said that he had already asked the party MLAs to check illegal mining and take media teams along to expose the lies of ruling SAD-BJP regime. He reiterated that illegal mining was going on unabated under political patronage of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.