After former PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa’s consistent tirade against Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, state ministers Tuesday demanded action against Bajwa a few minutes before the scheduled meeting of Council of Ministers.
In an interview to a TV channel Monday, Bajwa had called for “Captain Mukt Congress” (Congress without Captain) in Punjab.
An informal discussion between ministers before the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday saw a demand for disciplinary action against Bajwa by Congress leadership.
Sources said that issue was broached before the formal start of the meeting by Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, an aide of the Chief Minister. He is learnt to have stated that Bajwa’s rebellion was set to weaken the party.
A statement by Chief Minister’s Office, said, “Punjab Ministers on Tuesday demanded, in one voice, disciplinary action by the Congress leadership a against Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa for raising a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on public platforms.”
“There was consensus among the ministers, all senior leaders of the Congress, on the need for action against Bajwa. They pointed out that despite repeated pleas asking him to express his opinions within the party forum, Bajwa continued to criticise Captain Amarinder Singh and his government in media and other places. The MP had gone so far as to seek a change at the helm of the government, they noted with consternation, terming it an act of sheer indiscipline and urging the party leadership to take immediate action against the former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief,” the statement added.
According to the CMO statement, the ministers accused Bajwa of playing into the hands of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by pitching himself against his own party leadership, especially at a time when the entire opposition was in a state of disarray, posing no real challenge to the Congress in the state.
It quoted Manpreet Singh Badal saying that history showed dissension of any sort had always harmed the Congress. “We succeeded in winning so many seats in Punjab only because we were united,” he said, adding that this unity could not be allowed to be destroyed at any cost.
Om Prakash Soni, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa were also quick to point out that Partap Bajwa’s actions were extremely damaging for the party. The statement also quoted Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Charanjeet Singh Channi, Bharat Bhushan Ashu.
The statement said that other members of the Council of Ministers, namely Aruna Chaudhary, Razia Sultana, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukhjinder Singh Sarkaria, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Vijay Inder Singla, Sunder Sham Arora and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, were in total agreement with their colleagues in seeking urgent intervention by the party high command in the matter.
“Such rebellion, if not nipped in the bud, could send the wrong message down the rank and file of the Punjab Congress, which had been on a high since taking over the state’s reins around three years,” the statement quoted the ministers as saying. It said the senior leaders reiterated that “mutinous declarations from a senior member were detrimental to the interest of the party”.
Bajwa and Amarinder’s enmity dates back to many years. Once friends, the duo turned foes and Bajwa had challenged Amarinder after Congress lost Assembly election in 2012. In 2013, Bajwa was appointed PPCC chief by party high command. It was after a long battle that Amarinder was able to get Bajwa removed as PPCC chief in December 2015.
Accusing Bajwa of “negative and destructive politics”, they added that party needed someone like Amarinder and not Bajwa at the helm.
Describing Bajwa’s comments on employment as “unfortunate”, the ministers said that at a time when every member of the party should be involved in reviving the state’s economy and powering its growth, Bajwa seemed bent on pulling the party and the government down.
CM hiding behind Cabinet: Bajwa
Reacting to the statement by state Cabinet ministers, Bajwa said he will not be “browbeaten by such tactics” and that he is accountable to the people of Punjab.
“My accountability is to the people of Punjab and I will not be browbeaten by these tactics of Capt Amarinder Singh, who could not muster enough courage to rebut my allegations but needed the shelter of his reluctant Cabinet colleagues to do the same.”
He also dared Amarinder Singh to hold a public debate with him on the issues raised and let the public be the judge.