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It is Captain Amarinder vs Sunil Jakhar, party vs govt as MLAs fear Congress losing perception battle

Resentment brewing in party over govt silence on STF report, police transfers, growing perception of govt ‘favouring’ Akalis; delay in cabinet expansion keeps lid on simmering discontent.

punjab Updated: Apr 13, 2018 09:59 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab Congress,Congress,Sunil Jakhar
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh with state Congress president Sunil Jakhar.(HT File)

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar walking out of CM Captain Amarinder Singh’s office on Wednesday in a huff has exposed the growing wedge between the party and government in the state.

Though Jakhar did not skip the party’s function to distribute debt waiver certificates to farmers in Sangrur on Thursday, the two did not meet, as the CM gave it a miss.

A party MLA said it was the third time in the recent past that the CM had not met Jakhar after scheduling an appointment.

“Jakhar left not because of being told by the security staff to leave his mobile phone outside, but a feeling that the delay in meeting was deliberate after he reached at the time that Amarinder’s OSD had allotted,” the MLA said, requesting anonymity.

Jakhar had sought time to voice growing resentment in the party over “public perception of government favouring the Akalis”. Last week’s police transfers were the latest provocation. Congress MLAs are questioning why MS Chinna has been removed as the Bathinda IG after being warned by name by SAD president Sukhbir Badal at his ‘Pol khol’ rallies. Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur is the Bathinda MP, while his estranged nephew, Manpreet Badal, is MLA of Bathinda (Urban).

Most Congressmen are also upset over the CM running his government “by proxy”, claiming that just a chosen few are in command and Amarinder is favouring them in the ongoing war of attrition.

Some MLAs had also expressed anger over plum postings of cops who allegedly enjoyed close proximity to the previous dispensation. The appointment of Sukhchain Singh Gill as commissioner of Ludhiana, Naunihal Singh as IGP of Jalandhar Range and Ranbir Khatra as DIG of Ludhiana has not gone down well with them.

Though the 40-odd Congress MLAs who had started a signature campaign to seek probe against former Akali minister Bikram Majithia have since gone silent, they are questioning that why is the government sitting over a report of the STF headed by ADGP Harpreet Sidhu submitted to the high court that said the Akali leader had a “role in supply of drugs to two Canadian NRIs”.

“We have to contest elections next year. There is growing public perception that the Congress is just a dummy of the previous regime as they are still calling the shots. We have to think about our political careers too. How do we answer why our government is working at the behest of Akalis? We are losing the perception battle,” another MLA said.

Most Congressmen are also upset over the CM running his government “by proxy”, claiming that just a chosen few are in command and Amarinder is favouring them in the ongoing war of attrition.

In the power struggle within Punjab Police, Amarinder has shown that DGP Suresh Arora enjoys his confidence.

Harpreet Sidhu has been placed under him and the government has also taken back the charge of ADGP of border region from him.

The CM’s accessibility too remains a sore point in the party. Amarinder has kept party dissenters at bay by keeping the cabinet expansion carrot dangling for more than a year. The rumblings are likely to grow louder once the expansion takes place and dashes hopes of many.

First Published: Apr 13, 2018 09:48 IST