Amarinder checkmates rivals at tea party,claims support of remaining 67 candidates
The much-anticipated face off between loyalists and detractors of state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh at the meeting of 71 defeated candidates proved to be the proverbial storm in a teacup. Only four defeated MLAs Sukhpal Khaira,Surinderpal Sibia,Mangat Rai Bansal and Ripjit Brar openly showed their defiance at what finally turned out to be a informal tea party. They walked up to Amarinder,asked him to resign as state president and walked out.
The four told Amarinder that sentiments of party leaders and workers demand that he should resign. While Sibia blamed him for engineering his defeat from Sangrur,he along with Brar accused the Captain of openly supporting candidature of others and his core team for misleading them and not providing access to him.
The most vitriolic attack came from Bansal,who hit out at Amarinders coterie saying they traded as middlemen. A few others like Raman Bhalla were not as vocal,but still blamed him indirectly for propping up a rebel against him from Pathankot.
However,the Amarinder camp had its strategy ready. The four were outvoiced by Amarinder loyalists like Avtar Henry,Girirraj Rajora,Ajit Shant and Makhan Singh who said that defeated candidates should also look into other factors,including their own shortcomings. The final outcome: The Captain claimed the much-publicised opposition against him was coming from just four,who stood isolated.
Just four out of 71 candidates who lost elections demanded my resignation,the remaining 67 did not. The decision on who stays or goes as PPCC president is not to be decided in Punjab but by party president Sonia Gandhi. I had not been able to meet defeated MLAs. Now,I have heard what they had to say. But this was just a social occasion,I will call a separate meeting of these people to introspect the reasons for the defeat, he said after the meeting.
Amarinder once again defended his core team,saying that a PPCC president cannot function without a team and he alone is to be blamed for the poll debacle. On Rajinder Kaur Bhattals charges of missing party funds,the Captain said she has already retracted from her statement.
As the four walked off,Khaira told reporters that the PPCC president had hoodwinked them by calling a political meet but turning it into a tea party. We came here to speak our mind on why we lost. But he says he called us after one month for a tea party. He is trying to be casual when many MLAs went there with documents and proof. We will go to the high command to demand that the party be saved from further decline, he added. While marching off from the meet,Bansal used derogatory words against Amarinders team,saying they acted as fixers.
Of the 71 Congress candidates who lost,three were absent,including former Faridkot MLA Avtar Brar who had openly voiced his discontent against Amarinder and Jassi Khangura who had informed Amarinder that he was not coming.
The next scene of the battle is now set for New Delhi where state affairs in-charge Gulchain Singh Charak is meeting warring leaders. While Amarinder baiters Bhattal and MP Pratap Singh Bajwa have met him on Wednesday,Captain will meet him on Thursday his camp citing todays meet as a ground to report to Gandhi that majority stands with him.