A day after nominating Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans as the party’s Rajya Sabha (RS) candidate, the Congress high command did a U-turn in the face of protest by its Dalit leaders and named former state party chief Shamsher Singh Dullo as its nominee, along with Partap Singh Bajwa, also a former state unit chief.
The move is seen as a setback to state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh, who had projected Hans as the party’s Rajya Sabha nominee.
Confirming the development, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and Punjab party affairs in-charge Shakeel Ahmad said the decision followed Dullo’s meeting with party president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday morning.
After consulting senior party leaders, Sonia overruled party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s decision, who had finalised Hans’ name on Amarinder’s recommendation.
Dullo had expressed strong resentment over the allotment of the party ticket to Hans, who had joined the party three weeks ago in the presence of Amarinder on February 20.
“I met Sonia Ji and briefed her about the ground realities and the anger among Congress workers on fielding Hans Raj Hans as the party nominee. She appreciated my concern and also rewarded me with the RS ticket,” Dullo told HT.
Dullo had accused Amarinder of damaging the party by inducting and rewarding Hans, a former Akali and “pro-militant” leader on Wednesday. He had also termed Amarinder anti-Dalit at a conference held in Ludhiana recently.
Dullo was a cabinet minister in the Beant Singh government and remained a member of Parliament and also the state party chief when Amarinder was the CM.
Dullo was almost written off from the Punjab politics, but the Rajya Sabha berth has revived his political career. He and Bajwa will file their nominations on Friday.
Out of the five seats on which the RS elections will be held on March 21, two seats each will go to the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal while the BJP will get one seat.
At the time of replacing him with Amarinder as the Punjab Congress chief, the party leadership had assured Bajwa that he will be “suitably” adjusted. The bitter power struggle between Amarinder and Bajwa had apparently weakened the Congress and helped the Aam Aadmi Party consolidate its position across the state.