With the Chandigarh unit of Congress going through a crisis after the allegations of corruption against the nephew of the local MP,a split seems to be emerging between its leaders. While the Congress leaders are adopting a wait-and-watch policy,they have also started discussions on their preference for the future leader. In fact,some party leaders were conspicuous by their absence at the show of strength organised at the residence of local MP Pawan Kumar Bansal on Sunday.
The local Congress has been in turmoil ever since Bansals nephew was arrested by the CBI for allegedly accepting a bribe from a member of the Railway Board. Since the allegations also dented the image of Bansal who had been spearheading the party for the last more than two decades,talks of alternatives have already started doing the rounds.
Over the past few days there has been speculation about the leaders at the Centre with their roots in the city being given a chance to contest from here. The names included Union Ministers Kapil Sibal,Ambika Soni and Manish Tewari. Local Congress leader Chander Mukhi Sharma,who is known to be closely associated with Tewari,was conspicuous by his absence at Bansals residence. Chander Mukhi has over the years had tumultuous relations with Bansal.
Some senior office-bearers of the party as well as other leaders are voicing their opinion in favour of Haryana MLA Venod Sharma being their choice of candidate.
In fact,Sharma was all set to get the ticket from Chandigarh during the Lok Sabha elections in 1999 after Bansal lost the elections in 1996 and 1998. However,due to the controversy involving his son,the ticket was cancelled.
An office-bearer of the Chandigarh unit of the Congress says,Venod Sharma still has a base in Chandigarh. If he contests from the city,there are many BJP leaders who would shift their loyalties. In the colonies and villages he would manage to garner a large vote share. He would be acceptable to a substantial local Congress leaders as well.
There is another faction that feels that the leaders who have been working with the city unit of Congress for several years should be given a chance.
A senior party leader said,A lot now depends on the way the CBI investigation goes. If Pawan Bansal gets a clean chit and the party high command offers him a ticket,then the local Congress unit would back him. Otherwise,alternatives are already being discussed and everyone has a different opinion.