At a time it faces the challenge of an emboldened Shiromani Akali Dal claiming strategic victory over Sutlej-Canal Link (SYL) issue and the Aam Aadmi Party steadily building its grassroots support, the Congress is once again busy fighting its own internal wars.
Even as loyalists of Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh are demanding expulsion of Jagmeet Brar, another senior leader, Bir Devinder Singh, has joined the issue, if not hands with Brar, to claim the party’s support base is eroding in Punjab owing to Amarinder’s “style of functioning.”
Accusing Amarinder of being “inaccessible” to party leaders and workers, Bir Devinder, who ironically is media panel coordinator appointed by Amarinder, said he could not get audience with the latter for over two months despite sending messages, mails and making calls.
Fearing that he may give up the post, Amarinder’s office on Tuesday assured Bir Devinder of a meeting with him at the earliest. But later Captain decided against it, apparently to payback Bir Devinder in the same coin. As for Brar, though his salvos against Amarinder may seem unprovoked, the latter too has no love lost for him.
In his July 14, 2012 letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Amarinder had stated that both top claimants wanting to succeed him as Punjab Congress chief --- Partap Bajwa, who later replaced him and whom he replaced, and Jagmeet Brar --- were not “fit to hold this office.”
While he had accused Bajwa of drug links, Captain had described Brar as a person with “narrow-minded approach and low political standing”.
“He has lost seven of the nine elections fought by him. It includes three losses to SAD non-entities. He never nurtures his seat but looks for a new one each time. He just has a handful of people who owe allegiance to him and his brother, a sitting MLA, lost Kotkapura seat in 2012 polls despite Jagmeet exclusively campaigning for him and it being their home turf,” Amarinder had said in the letter.
Amarinder on Tuesday rubbished Brar’s assertions that he (Captain) sabotaged his electoral chances. “When he was fighting against Sukhbir from Faridkot, me and Congress president Sonia Gandhi went there to launch his campaign. He won not because of his popularity but because we canvassed for him. How can I engineer the defeat of my party candidates? He is always jumping seats. Ask him why he couldn’t win other elections he contested,” he told HT. On Bir Devinder, he said how can he (Devinder) accuse him of not being accessible. “He is my media panel coordinator and how can he say that,” Amarinder said.
Brar, a two-time MP, too hit back at Amarinder saying, “Captain never went to programmes of any Dalit Punjab Congress chief, how he can call me narrow-minded? Did he ever fight an election against Badals? All that he did was indulge in palace intrigues to neutralise senior party leaders. He should not forget that he lost to Prem Singh Chandumajra from Patiala in 1998 by a huge margin and yet he was appointed as Punjab Congress president and thanked me for not staking claim to the presidency,” Brar said.
History of mistrust
Their mistrust of each other goes down by several years to the time Brar objected to Amarinder as chief minister offering land to Reliance Industries and the latter had got 65 MLAs and senior leaders to sign against Brar demanding his expulsion from the party.
Elected first time in 1992, when SAD had boycotted the polls, Brar had defeated Sukhbir Singh Badal from Faridkot in the 1999 parliamentary elections.
The firebrand leader had emerged as a contender for the Congress presidency more than once after it only to miss it by a whisker.
Brar has been openly questioning Amarinder’s leadership since the Maghi rally at Muktsar, where the Aam Aadmi Party stole the thunder of both Congress and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and singing peans to AAP ever since. Later, in a series of tweets, he had dubbed Khadoor Sahib bypoll boycott by the party as “a blunder and betrayal with people” by Amarinder.
He upped the ante last week, by again tweeting that the Congress has been pushed to number three slot in Punjab and accused Amarinder of colluding with the SAD to defeat him in 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections in his recent interviews.