The boycott of the Khadoor Sahib bypoll announced by Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday has plunged the party into a turmoil.
While former MP Jagmeet Brar has openly called it a “betrayal with people and the party”, some senior party leaders have accused Amarinder of taking a unilateral stand. Though there are many sympathisers for the ideological stand taken by candidate Ramanjit Sikki against the “government failure” to investigate the sacrilege incidents and police firing at protesters, only a few agree with Amarinder’s execution of the move. As Amarinder was busy in a youth interaction at Panjab University on Thursday, his team was firefighting the voices of dissent. While the consent of party MLAs was mustered for endorsing the boycott, former MLAs were asked to gun for Brar’s head.
The first joint press statement by sitting MLAs had only 12 names. A revised statement had 40, along with that of independent MLA Rajnish Babbi. Amarinder’s precedessor Partap Bajwa’s wife Charanjit Bajwa did not feature in either — clearly signalling his stand. “Contesting the byelection when the issues remain unresolved would have defeated the very purpose for which Sikki had submitted the resignation,” the MLAs’ statement read.
It was followed by a statement by at least 20 former MLAs demanding Brar’s expulsion for “breach of discipline and embarrassing the party”. “If he had any reservation, he should have used the party forum to convey his feelings and not tweet statements. Despite being re-inducted into the party after his suspension in the past for targeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he is now targeting Amarinder. It is a consensus stand of the party to boycott the bypoll and Brar had no reason to resort to malicious campaign against the PCC president,” the former MLAs said.
Manpreet too favoured boycott
It is learnt that the Captain’s new ally in the party, Manpreet Badal, too, was in favour of boycotting the bypoll.
Some senior leaders, who did not wish to be quoted, said Amarinder wanted to rope in an outside strategist precisely to have his way and take unilateral decisions. “If the boycott was on ideological grounds, why did it come on the last day of filing nominations. Was he trying to test its after-effects,” a senior MLA said.
And it was not just on home front where Amarinder was battling opposition to his move. He also dared SAD president and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal to undergo a popularity test through a snap poll if he believed the Congress had run away fearing defeat.
Truth always bitter: Brar
Reacting to the statement by 20 former MLAs demanding his expulsion, Brar issued a statement calling it another self-goal. “I have not said anything against anybody. I had only reacted to a blunder, that also Himalayan, by Amarinder Singh. Truth is always bitter.”