Misleading surveys,apolitical men at helm in Bhattal’s poll debacle analysis

The poll battle is over but the war has just begun for the Congress. Blindly relying on misleading poll surveys,introducing slip system to meet state party president Amarinder Singh,apolitical people running the show at the the party office and lack of consensus on candidates figure in Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s chargesheet,who met party president Sonia Gandhi last Saturday.

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh | Published: March 13, 2012 12:56 am

The poll battle is over but the war has just begun for the Congress. Blindly relying on misleading poll surveys,introducing slip system to meet state party president Amarinder Singh,apolitical people running the show at the the party office and lack of consensus on candidates figure in Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal’s chargesheet,who met party president Sonia Gandhi last Saturday.

Though state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh is yet to meet Gandhi with his report,Bhattal managed to do so with her own account on the poll debacle. With Parliament session getting underway,Amarinder is now likely to get an audience with Sonia only by mid-week.

Topping Bhattal’s list of factors behind the poll drubbing is over-reliance of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) on poll surveys. “I had told senior leaders in Delhi from day one that the fight was neck-and-neck. However,the apolitical people running the Punjab Congress office — majors and captains rather than seasoned politicians — totally went by misleading poll surveys and kept giving the figure of 70 seats,” Bhattal told The Indian Express on Monday.

Interestingly,after polling was held on January 30,private teams engaged by the PPCC had given over 80 seats to the party,which even the PPCC felt was too good to be true and rationalised it.

Though Bhattal agrees with reasons cited by Amarinder for the debacle — higher vote share for BSP in Doaba,PPP and rebels,fall in urban vote share and populist sops of the ruling alliance — Bhattal’s list is a tad longer. She had also cited inaccessibility as a major issue. “During rallies,only workers who were issued slips could approach Amarinder. This alienated both party workers and voters,” she said.

However on issue of candidate selection,she joins ranks with Amarinder. Bhattal’s own analysis says of the 46 seats won by the Congress,34 were those where there was a consensus between her and Amarinder on candidates. “Lack of consensus on many seats,last minute dropping of names and failure to win over rebels,all did not augur well for the party,” she added.

Also hinting that the Congress manifesto was lacklustre,Bhattal said it could have been more welfare-oriented. “The Congress could have plead its case more strongly with the union minister (Pranab Mukherjee). If the Akalis can promise state schemes,so could we.”

With resentment brewing in the party,another stint as CLP leader for Bhattal will not come easy. Murmurs within the party for bringing in younger and more dynamic leadership at both the state president and CLP level — voiced by leaders like Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa — are getting louder.

While some MLAs have accused Bhattal of being soft on Akalis within the House,others attributed her eying the post of Leader of Opposition to her love for the sprawling bunglow that’s been now her home for 19 years in the high-profile neighbourhood of the chief minister.

However,Bhattal dismissed both the contentions. “I have the best track record when it comes to putting up a strong opposition against the Badals. As for this House,I came here in 1992. I lived here even when I was the chief minister. And I have never asked for posts but took up whatever responsibility was given to me by the party president,” she added.

But the MLAs who meet this week to elect a new leader are cynical. “It is a farce. The party general secretaries from New Delhi will just ask the MLAs to pass a resolution saying they leave the decision on party president Sonia Gandhi. Of the 44 MLAs who won in 2007,43 wrote they wanted Amarinder as the CLP leader. Finally,Bhattal was chosen. It can’t be any different this time,” said a Congress MLA.

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