In a setback to the Congress, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) vice-president Col CD Kamboj (retd) on Tuesday quit the party and joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Considered a staunch loyalist of Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh and a close aide of senior party leader Ambika Soni, Kamboj (67) contested on the party ticket from Shahkot assembly segment in Jalandhar district in the 2007 and 2012 polls. In the 2012 assembly elections, he had lost to Akali stalwart Ajit Singh Kohar by a margin of 5,435 votes.
Though Kamboj remained at loggerheads with PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa, his exit from the Congress has come as a surprise for the Amarinder camp.
Ironically, when Amarinder had launched his Punjab Yatra from Jalandhar Cantonment on July 1, Kamboj was among the leaders who had said that only the former chief minister could bring the Congress back to power in the state.
“The Congress has become a bunch of sycophants. As an ex-serviceman, I admire discipline, but this word has no place in the Congress dictionary. Everyone is involved in groupism, be it Amarinder, Bajwa or (Rajinder Kaur) Bhattal. In such a scenario, I don’t see the Congress taking on the SAD-BJP alliance,” said Kamboj, addressing a press conference here after switching over. AAP’s Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur and organisational head Durgesh Pathak inducted him into the party.
Kamboj said he was impressed by the AAP’s transparent functioning and its zero tolerance to corruption. Sources said he was upset at the alleged preferential treatment given by Bajwa to another party leader from Shahkot, Rajanvir Singh, and was also opposed to Amarinder’s move to route party matters in Doaba through Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh.
“Those who ensured my defeat in 2012 were given plum postings. I never got a hearing on any forum about my complaint,” said Kamboj.
In 1998, he had joined the Congress after leaving the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose Punjab unit he was then heading. He had contested the Lok Sabha elections on the BSP ticket from Hoshiarpur in 1998 but had lost despite getting 2.4 lakh votes. He also served as the chairman of the Punjab Health Systems Corporation when Amarinder was the chief minister.
An ex-serviceman from Tarn Taran, Captain Bikramjit Singh Pahuwindia (retd), a Shaurya Chakra awardee, also joined the AAP with his supporters.