HT Analysis: Congress scores two self-goals in Punjab poll season

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2016 22:44 IST
A senior Congress functionary, however, blamed poll strategist Prashant Kishor. (HT File Photo)

New Delhi: It’s football season and even the Congress party seems to be caught up in the goal-fest gripping the world. In less than two weeks, the grand-old party has scored twice on the Punjab turf, but unfortunately both turned out to be self-goals.

Ahead of the Punjab assembly polls next year, the Congress thought of fielding its seasoned players to take on the incumbent SAD-BJP combine and a new challenger, the Aam Aadmi Party.

The Congress named Kamal Nath as general secretary in-charge of Punjab, but rival parties pounced on the decision seeking to link Nath’s name to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Though the party clarified Nath’s name does not figure in any 1984 riots case, he stepped down after the furore over the issue.

Barely had it put a lid over Nath’s appointment, the Congress scored another self-goal by naming lightweight Asha Kumari as in-charge of Punjab affairs. Turns out Kumari was convicted in a 1998 land grab case in Himachal Pradesh.

Also read I Asha, who? 5 things you need to know about the new Punjab Cong in-charge

With its two players misfiring back-to-back in Punjab, the party seems to have given enough ammunition to its political rivals to rub it in ahead of the assembly polls.

Congress leaders, unable to explain the rationale behind the moves, maintained that such decisions are taken at the highest level after due consultation.

But political analysts see it more as an “adjustment” policy. “Rather than working towards managing the elections, the party seems to be engaged in an adjustment and appeasement policy,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

A senior Congress functionary, however, blamed poll strategist Prashant Kishor for the decision on Nath.

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Keen to accommodate Nath in a key organisational position, the leadership is believed to have chosen him for Punjab affairs in view of his ability as a political manager. Besides, his working relationship with Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh had also weighed in his favour.

In fact, the party had toyed with the names of senior leaders such as Digvijaya Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Sheila Dikshit before naming Asha Kumari as an interim arrangement in Punjab.

Also read I Capt defends Asha as Punjab Cong in-charge: ‘She is on bail’

The party has however defended Kumari’s appointment, saying the case involving her was a “highly complicated and complex” land issue and “not a case of murder”. “BJP president Amit Shah is charged of murder and is out on bail. He is an accused in a murder case. Yeddyurappa (Karnataka BJP chief) is accused of corruption,” senior leader Kapil Sibal told reporters.

But the barbs continue. “It is a shame that a party with 130 years of track record cannot find one honest and clean person to lead Punjab affairs,“ said expelled Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar.

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