All does not seem well in the Congress in Amritsar district as its senior leaders have ganged up against Amritsar Central MLA Om Prakash Soni in an apparent bid to scuttle his chances of getting the party ticket from the Amritsar parliamentary constituency in the next Lok Sabha election.
In a joint letter written to the party high command, these leaders have put a question mark on Soni's credentials and alleged that he is working in proximity with the Akali leadership. They have gone to the extent of claiming that “his presence in the Congress is dangerous for the party.”
The letter dated November 28, 2012, was handed over to AICC observer Deepak Kumar when he visited Amritsar last year. Copies of the letter were addressed to AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi and party leaders Ahmed Patel and Janardhan Diwedi.
Interestingly, none of the leaders whose names figure in the letter were present on Sunday to attend a workers' rally outside Soni's house. Their absence was a clear indication that they have not reconciled to Soni's new appointment and that they would still stand by the letter written to the high command in November last year.
The letter, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, was signed by Amritsar West MLA Dr Raj Kumar, who is also vice-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Raja Sansi MLA Sukhbinder Sarkaria, former MLAs Harpartap Singh Ajnala, Jugal Kishore Sharma, Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, Harjinder Singh Thekedar, Jasbir Singh Dimpa and former deputy speaker Prof Darbari Lal.
Other signatories include Tarsem Singh DC, Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, Joginder Pal Dhingra, Krishan Kumar Kukku, Dharamveer Sareen and Ashwani Pappu.
The letter was written on the joint letter pad of Ajnala, who is Amritsar rural district Congress president, and Jugal Kishore, who is Amritsar urban district Congress chief.
Soni, a four-time MLA, was the Congress candidate in the last Lok Sabha poll but lost to BJP's Navjot Singh Sidhu by a slender margin of 6,500 votes. He contested his first assembly poll as an Independent and won. In 2002, he joined the Congress and has won the assembly polls held thereafter.
Soni's detractors with the Congress have not taken too kindly to his recent appointment as vice-president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), in charge of the Majha belt. Soni was appointed to the post after Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa took over the reins of the party in Punjab.
'Proximity with Badal'
In the letter, the Congress leaders have questioned Soni's integrity and alleged that he works in close proximity with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. They claimed that ever since Soni joined the Congress, he had fragmented the party to suit the Akalis.
Soni's detractors also claimed that Soni was hand-in-glove with a prominent Akali leader against Congress candidates in certain assembly constituencies of Amritsar and then in the Amritsar municipal corporation poll.
“Due to his proximity with the SAD-BJP government, Soni gets officers of his choice posted in the city and gets his work done,” the letter claimed.
Soni dismisses charges
Soni dismissed the allegations against him, maintaining that he was a “loyal worker” of the party. He said that he had never considered himself an aspirant for the Congress ticket for the Lok Sabha election. “I am not a leader of the party. I am just a worker and follow the dictates of the high command,” the MLA said. As for differences in the Amritsar district Congress, he said, “If anyone feels he has differences with me, I will even go to his home to resolve all issues.”