A FEW days after Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu was handpicked by Congress president Sonia Gandhi as convenor of the Congress campaigning committee for 2017 assembly polls, the Ludhiana Congress got another shot in the arm on Friday with the appointment of Bharat Bhushan Ashu, MLA, Ludhiana (West), as the deputy leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha.
While Ashu’s appointment is seen as representation of a Hindu face in the team, it has equally come out as an effort to bring the youth brigade to the forefront by the Congress high command.
Their elevation has come despite the fact that Bittu is a first-time MP from Ludhiana (earlier from Anandpur Sahib) and similarly Ashu is a first-time MLA from Ludhiana (West). Also, both managed to sail through despite the Captain Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa tussle that plagued Punjab Congress for almost a year, leading to wide factions in the Punjab Congress.
Bittu and Ashu took over as faces of the Ludhiana Congress last year after the Tewari-Dewan duo fallout. Former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari and former Ludhiana Congress district president Pawan Dewan shared an enviable chemistry but Tewari backed out of Lok Sabha 2014 polls and Bittu landed as a ‘parachute candidate’. Soon after the polls and Bittu’s win, Dewan too faced the axe and was ‘expelled’ from the party for speaking out against Bajwa.Ashu, who did not see eye-to-eye with Dewan, a loyalist of Tewari – soon rose to the limelight with Bittu’s win and now is his go-to man.
Making several public appearances together and often spotted enjoying street food, Ashu and Bittu are taking the diplomatic route without clearly joining either the Bajwa or Captain camp.
Ashu said, “Bittu is my brother and he is so hardworking and humble that I have enjoyed my work even more since he became Ludhiana MP. He has always corrected me wherever I have gone wrong. We share a unique chemistry. It is evident that the functioning of the Ludhiana Congress changed drastically after Bittu took over. All district Congress committees were grappling with the Bajwa-Captain tussle but not us,” he said.
On his appointment as deputy leader in Vidhan Sabha, he said, “The Congress high command has put an immense responsibility on shoulders of Ludhiana Congress. This shows that they have trust in youth leaders. My aim will be to expose SAD-BJP in the House and ensure that Congress wins all Ludhiana seats in 2017.”
In a veiled reference to Pawan Dewan, he said, “Even those people are welcome again in the Congress if they want to work. But now there is no place for divisive politics.”
“The greater representation for Ludhiana both in campaigning committee and Vidhan Sabha has proved that high command has greater expectation from us. Bittu and I will prove that our promotion is well-deserved and justified. We will win all 14 assembly segments in Ludhiana,” he said.