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Amarinder Singh inaccessible, cadre morale down: Congress MLAs to Rahul

Three senior MLAs who had resigned from House panels on May 14 met t Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Tuesday to express their resentment over “seniority being ignored” in the cabinet expansion.

punjab Updated: May 23, 2018 09:52 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Rahul gandhi,Amarinder Singh,Punjab Congress
Amrik Singh Dhillon (R) talks to Congress president Rahul Gandhi as (from left) Rakesh Pandey and Randeep Singh Nabha look on, in New Delhi on Tuesday.(HT Photo)

More than a month after nine new ministers were sworn in on April 21, resentment continues to brew among other hopefuls in the Punjab Congress.

Three senior MLAs who had resigned from House panels on May 14 met Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Tuesday to express their resentment over “seniority being ignored” in the cabinet expansion.

Six-time Ludhiana North MLA Rakesh Pandey, Amloh MLA Randeep Singh Nabha and Samrala MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon, both four-time legislators, told Rahul that old Congress families and party loyalists have not been given their due and are feeling left out. On Rahul’s advice, they also met senior party leader and former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.

“I told Rahul that I am a six-time MLA whose loyalty towards the party has never wavered. But those much junior to me have been appointed as ministers. We told him people are questioning the criteria adopted by the party to pick ministers and why was seniority ignored,” he said.

Nabha said they apprised the party president that the resentment can hit party’s prospects in the 2019 elections. “Rahul assured to look into our grievances. Gehlot too sounded positive. We will share the details of our meeting with our other colleagues to decide the future course of action. We will take a joint call on it,” he said.

The MLAs were also critical of the state leadership. “Not only cabinet expansion, we also spoke about Amarinder’s style of governance, which has left MLAs and workers disenchanted. Party cadre and people of Punjab are feeling that nothing has changed after the Akalis went out of power. The same police set-up is in place. The CM is not accessible to MLAs and workers. The morale of party rank and file is down,” Dhillon said.

The MLAs claimed that neither chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh — who was on a vacation in Himachal — nor state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar or party affairs in-charge Asha Kumari and Harish Chaudhary had reached out to them after they quit the committees recently reconstituted by assembly speaker Rana KP Singh, who had tried to convince them to stay on.

Dhillon was last week made chairman of the assembly’s library committee and Pandey of the committee on public undertakings. Randeep was made a member of both. Both Randeep and Pandey are also vice-presidents in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).

Party insiders say at least 15 MLAs from general category and 21 from Dalit and backward classes are in touch with each other. Urmur MLA Sangat Singh Gilzian was the first to quit a party post over backward castes getting a “raw deal”.

He was followed by two other MLAs, Surjit Dhiman and Nathu Ram, who too resigned from party posts over “inadequate” representation to Dalits and backward classes. Some Dalit MLAs led by Amritsar West MLA Raj Kumar Verka and deputy assembly speaker Ajaib Singh Bhatti too met Rahul last month to voice their anger.

The CM, whose loyalists have bagged most of cabinet berths and plum portfolios, has dangled the carrot of chairmanships of boards and corporations to the older lot and posts of legislative secretaries to the younger MLAs. But not only are both the proposals caught in legal tangles, they also have a few takers.

First Published: May 23, 2018 09:46 IST