The resentment in the city unit of the Congress that was brewing after the debacle in the Lok Sabha has come out in the open with local leaders raising questions over the manner in which the party has been functioning in the city. The second rung leadership has squarely blamed its top leadership including former city MP Pawan Kumar Bansal and president of city unit B B Bahl for the defeat, demanding a change.
The party was defeated by the biggest margin in its electoral history in the city. Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal, who is a former railways minister lost to first time candidate Kirron Kher by a margin of 69,642 votes.
Talking to Newsline, Congress leader Chander Mukhi Sharma said that Pawan Kumar Bansal was controlling the organisation by default and the office of party president is now defunct. “He should own responsibility for the defeat. He was an MP for 15 years as well as a minister. No activity was held at the Congress Bhawan during the elections. Rather it was all confined to Bansal’s residence. There were some sincere Congressmen who did not want to go to his house and were left out of the party activities,” said Sharma.
He added that under B B Bahl’s leadership there was no activity in the party. He said, “Bahl never took Congressmen along with him to meet officials of the Administration and raise issues concerning residents. While Bansal, despite being a minister said that no one listens to him. People were angry because of this. These are the reasons for the debacle of the party.”
The Congress lost in all the 26 wards. In the 519 booths where polling took place, Congress led in around 25. While BJP led in most of the booths. Even the AAP was ahead of the Congress. in several booths. Whether it was residents of CHB houses, industrialists, traders or even colony dwellers, all sections were disgruntled over their demands not having been fulfilled in several years.
Another Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Badheri said, “The promises made in the past 15 years were not fulfilled. For the first five years we kept saying that it is BJP government at the Centre. In the next five years we did not get along with the Governor. In the last five years, we gave people no answers on why their work was not getting done.”
Badheri said, “It is the family of Pawan Bansal who controlled the election campaign. There was no activity at the Congress Bhawan which has been reduced to a place where we only hold birth and death anniversaries. Chandigarh has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. This time we lost even though the other candidates were from outside and first timers. The charges of corruption against Bansal’s nephew were not acceptable to the people.”
Another bone of contention among the local leaders is that there has been no discussion to assess the reasons for the defeat. While the BJP is preparing reports about the booths where they were behind despite the victory, Congress has made no assessment. AAP has also started some activity in the city with eyes on municipal elections.
A senior Congress leader said that the second rung leadership wants a change in the top leadership. “There are divisions within the second run leadership which was never allowed to grow. It would require a leader of some stature from outside who could pose a challenge to the BJP here. We have lost faith in the current leaders,” he said.
A revolt was witnessed in the Congress even when the ticket for the Lok Sabha election was to be given. For the first time in 15 years, some leaders filed applications and staked claim to be given ticket instead of it being given to Bansal. The election committee that was to finalise the names, unanimously approved Bansal’s name.