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Under strident attack for naming Kamal Nath as party in-charge of Punjab and Haryana, a politician long under a 1984 anti-Sikh riots cloud, the Congress dropped him today. For the record though, he wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi urging her to relieve him of the charge which she accepted immediately.
Coming days after the mini-revolt in Haryana over the Rajya Sabha elections and the cross-voting in Uttar Pradesh, this is another serious setback for the Congress high command.
Earlier in the day, M S Gill, who was a minister in the UPA I government and until recently a Rajya Sabha member from Punjab, had said the decision to appoint Kamal Nath as Punjab in-charge as “heartless”. He told The Indian Express that the move amounted to rubbing salt on the wounds of Sikhs.
The appointment had also been slammed by the Aam Aadmi Party, the new challenger in Punjab, and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called it “the ultimate insult to Sikhs” and AAP’s H S Phoolka said the Congress was trying to “rub salt on the wounds” of the 1984 riot victims and their kin.
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Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said Nath’s request to relieve him as in-charge of Punjab had been accepted by Sonia Gandhi. He also met Rahul Gandhi. Sources said several leaders from Punjab told Gandhi that Nath’s appointment could cost the party dearly in the assembly elections next year.
In his letter to Gandhi, Nath said “I have been hurt by the developments of the past few days wherein an unnecessary controversy has been created around the tragic 1984 riots in New Delhi.”
“Till 2005, not a single public statement, complaint or FIR was ever made against me and the first time my name was ever mentioned in any forum was 21 years after 1984. The Nanavati Commission set up by the NDA government after proper investigation fully absolved me. Even during a subsequent motion to discuss the Commission’s report in Parliament, none of the Akali-BJP MPs including Sukhbir Singh Badal mentioned my name. This canard is therefore nothing but a cheap political ploy to gain traction ahead of the elections,” he said.
Nath said he had been “blessed to have a long career with the party right from the Youth Congress to being general secretary to being a minister in the Congress governments since 1991 and never has there been any stigma attached to my name.”
“Certain elements are raking up these issues now only for political gains. I am touched by the support shown to me by our party workers and leaders in Punjab in repudiating the false accusations. I am a practitioner of Nehruvian politics and maligning of the Congress party using false accusations is unacceptable to me.”
“I wish the party focus on the upcoming assembly elections and highlight issues of misgovernance, misery of the farmers and youth, breakdown of law and order and rampant drug trade that caused untold misery to the people of Punjab. Given this, I request that I may be relieved of my charge to ensure that the attention is not diverted from the real issues facing Punjab,” he said.