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Punjab Cong leaders raise chorus for change

Ex-state,district chiefs blame ‘poor’ poll management for debacle.

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh |
October 12, 2012 2:18:46 am

Ex-state,district chiefs blame ‘poor’ poll management for debacle

Were you involved in the ticket allotment process for the Assembly polls?

What do you think led to the party’s poll debacle in Punjab and how can we regain lost ground?

These were some of the queries Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi posed to the old guard of the party in Chandigarh on Thursday.

On the second day of his two-day tour of the state,Rahul chose to hear out former district presidents informally in groups,placing his chair in the middle. A majority chorused for change. One of the main reason highlighted by almost all for the party’s debacle in the January 30 polls was poor poll management — right from distribution of tickets to the campaign,which some said,started at 10 am and ended at 5 pm. The most critical was former District Congress Committee (DCC) president and MLA Avtar Brar. “I told Rahul,there must be change or Congress is finished in Punjab,” he said.

Former Kapurthala DCC president,Sukhpal Khaira,said a vast majority of former DCC chiefs replied in the negative to Rahul’s question on whether they were involved in the decision-making process for ticket allotment. “He today got first-hand information on the party’s internal situation. There is no communication between the rank and file,” Khaira later said. Patiala and Moga former district presidents,however,openly supported state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh.

Among the nine former PPCC presidents called for the meeting,eight attended — among them mostly those who have been rooting for change in leadership in the state. Though none gunned for Amarinder’s head,some were vociferous in their criticism of the style of functioning of the state leadership.

“There is a disconnect between leaders and workers. I am not against anyone,it is for the high command to decide who it wants. But there should be a change,” former state president R L Bhatia said. Another former state chief,Shamsher Singh Dullo,echoed similar views.

But some of Amarinder’s known detractors like Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mohinder Singh Kaypee played safe by suggesting ways to make the party strong. “It is not the occasion to raise accusing fingers at anyone. We spoke on what happened,is happening and what needs to be done,” Bhattal said. Kaypee said that poor poll management did the party in. “The Akalis announced their candidates in advance,campaigned extensively and managed the polls better than us,” he said.

Union Minister Ambika Soni,also a former PPCC chief,said Rahul wants to speak to everyone — current and former office-bearers — and prepare a report on what went wrong. Batting for Amarinder,Ambika said: “We are all responsible for the poll loss. The idea of the introspection now is to meet the challenge of 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Workers and former MLAs are deserting the party.”

She added: “Rahul met those who have been implicated in false cases by the Akali regime at the UT guest house today. He also met MLAs and MPs,both sitting and former,in New Delhi before coming to Punjab. Leaders offered constructive suggestions on how to make the party strong after the poll debacle.”

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