Rumblings in Cong: Three-member panel to meet Punjab leaders from Monday
The three-member Congress committee headed by leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge will start meeting party leaders from Punjab from Monday to try and resolve factionalism in the state unit.
The committee, which includes All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat and former Delhi Congress president Jai Prakash Agarwal as members, held its first meeting in Delhi on Saturday and has decided to call all ministers, present and former state unit chiefs, MPs, MLAs and other senior party leaders one by one in the first week of June.
The three senior leaders, who have been tasked with finding a solution to squabbling in the state Congress, will start by talking to Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar on Monday and then meet others over the next one week to comprehend the situation and hear their suggestions and grievances.
“The committee will have one-to-one meeting with each one of them to find a solution to their doubts and differences. We have to bring all the state leaders together to present a united face to strengthen the party for the 2022 assembly elections,” Rawat told HT after the meeting.
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s detractors, particularly Amritsar East MLA and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Jalandhar Cantonment MLA Pargat Singh, have been suggesting that the party leadership should have one-to-one meetings with party legislators and others so that they can speak freely.
On some dissenting leaders’ demand for a change of leadership in the state unit and the government, Rawat said this was not in the purview of the committee. “There is no rebellion. There are differences among some leaders over the sacrilege-related cases and other poll promises. We will see how this can be sorted out, but everything will depend on their feedback and suggestions,” he said, trying to play down the open sparring between Amarinder and Sidhu in recent weeks.
While party MLAs have already started getting messages for their audience with the committee at a party office on Gurdwara Rakabganj Road in New Delhi, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi reportedly phoned three party leaders, including one minister, on Saturday for first-hand feedback from them. “Rahul ji spoke to me today and asked about the government and the goings-on in the state party. I told him my views,” Urmar MLA Sangat Singh Gilzian said, refusing to divulge the details.
Asked about the continued rumblings and meetings of dissenting leaders, Rawat said they were all senior leaders and would express their views before the committee. “I am hopeful that since the Congress president has respected their sentiments and set up a high-level committee, they (party leaders) will display due regard for the committee and the conclusion it arrives at even though not everyone can be satisfied,” he said.
The committee was constituted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after Sidhu and a few other party leaders in the state targeted the chief minister for the legal setback in the 2015 Kotkapura police firing case. Amarinder and his loyalists also hit back equally hard. The rift got worse when the state agencies started to dig up dirt on some of the detractors and one of them even alleged a threat call from an aide of the chief minister.