SENIOR DALIT Congress leaders on Wednesday opposed the party’s decision to name Akali-turned-Congress leader and Sufi singer, Hans Raj Hans, as its Rajya Sabha candidate, by lodging their protests to the high command against him. The party came close to nominating Hans and former Punjab Congress president, Partap Singh Bajwa, on Wednesday evening, but had to defer the announcement, following the strong protests by the leaders of the Ravidassia community against Hans.
Sources said, the senior leaders do not want any controversy within the party in the election year. It is learnt that AICC president Sonia Gandhi had cleared these names and asked general secretary incharge Dr Shakeel Ahmad to make an announcement. But, she had to put on hold the announcement after former state president, Shamsher Singh Dullo, supported by several other leaders lodged a strong protest.
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Hans had joined Congress recently and sources said Punjab Congress president, Capt Amarinder Singh, is keen on providing him a Rajya Sabha berth. While Amarinder backed Hans, Bajwa has the support of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Accommodating Bajwa in the Upper House of Parliament is Rahul’s way of rewarding him for stepping down to make way for Amarinder.
Five Rajya Sabha seats from Punjab fall vacant next month and elections for them have been scheduled for March 21. The Congress will get two seats, considering the strength of its MLAs in Assembly.
Dullo is learnt to have called up senior party leaders. His grouse is Congress was indulging in “Akalisation” of Congress by providing plum posts to people like Hans. “Are we becoming a B team of Akalis?” he asked.
“He is just 15 days old in the party. What has he done to get this reward? What is the fault of traditional Congress leaders who have stood by the party through thick and thin?” asked Dullo stating he and former MP, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, had lodged strong protests.
Dullo also said that the party had given a seat to a Valmiki leader, Dharampal Sabharwal between 2004 and 2010. Hans is also from the Valmiki community. “Why not a leader from Ravidassia community this time? After all, we people have fought terrorism, being with Congress, given our prime to the party. When it come to struggling then we are the frontrunners but others take the cake,” Dullo said.
Interestingly, while former Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar was expecting Amarinder to bat for him for the RS seat, his name has not be considered seriously yet. Jakhar is a sitting MLA and Amarinder does not want his Assembly seat to fall vacant as it would mean another byelection.
The high command though, will in all likelihood, go ahead with its decision on both Hans and Bajwa, sources said. The senior leaders are of the opinion that the protesting leaders have been given enough by the party. Both the families including that of Dullo and Kaypee have been given several tickets in the past.
If Hans is named the candidate, it would be a challenge for the party including its strategist Prashant Kishor to handle the first revolt after taking over.