Former Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh today advised his successor Partap Singh Bajwa to go to Delhi to learn the extent of his jurisdiction as state president of the party.
Amarinder,who had been lying low after being replaced as state chief by the Gurdaspur MP in March this year,flexed his muscles today by holding a parallel show of strength - he hosted a lunch for sitting and former MLAs,district presidents,leaders of Youth Congress and NSUI.
Last week,he had announced a tour of Punjab in September to galvanise party cadres even as Bajwas own state tour is on. He had hit out directly at Bajwa on Saturday for overstepping his authority by announcing names of Lok Sabha and Assembly candidates.
Speaking to The Indian Express after the lunch,Amarinder said,In six months,Bajwa should have learnt what is within his jurisdiction as state president. If he has not,he should go to Delhi and learn. When I had announced during Assembly polls as state president that all sitting MLAs would get tickets,I was summoned to Delhi and told by the party president that it was her prerogative to decide candidates. I am just reminding Bajwa about his prerogatives. There are two to three contenders for each seat and by announcing names,he is putting up one against the other. This will only damage the party. He has to learn to take people along, Amarinder said.
Bajwa refused to comment on Amarinders gathering,but emphasised that he was answerable only to the party high command. I am not a greenhorn and I know my jurisdiction. I do not want to join issue with him. I,as state party president,was asked by the media about a candidate,I simply endorsed the names of the sitting MP and the MLA who was the party candidate in the last elections, he said.
However,the names announced by Bajwa as candidates for Sangrur parliamentary and Assembly seats have ruffled feathers of Amarinder confidants such as Dhuri MLA Arvind Khanna,who is eying the seat.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Punjab Shakeel Ahmed,when contacted,said Bajwa,as state chief,can recommend names of candidates. From what I know,Bajwa only recommended names,which is well within his authority. He also knows that it is the party president who takes the final call. I have spoken to both the leaders. The misunderstanding seems to have arisen from some communication gap. I have called both to Delhi after the Parliament session and we will sort out the differences through dialogue, Ahmed said.
Amarinder said todays meeting was a show of solidarity for the party. I told them to work for the partys unity. I announced a tour of Punjab as there are many who have been associated with me for years. I want to ask them to work to ensure the return of UPA-3. Bajwa was in primary school when I joined politics. Neither my Punjab tour nor todays meeting is to project that the party leadership is divided, said Amarinder,who returned to the state last week after a month-long vacation in south Africa and Dubai,
Asked about Amarinders tour,Bajwa said he had high regard for him as he had done commendable work for the party.
While the close aides of Amarinder said a majority of sitting MLAs attended the informal meeting today,Bajwas aides said only nine of the 46 MLAs turned up.
Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sunil Jakhar,who has not been seen with Bajwa during his Punjab tour,was present at Amarinders meeting today.
Lunch meeting keeps leaders phones busy
Chandigarh: The phones of sitting and former Congress MLAs,district presidents and other leaders have been ringing continuously for the past two days. Some Congress MLAs said that aides of both Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa and Captain Amarinder Singh kept calling them and asking to them to skip/attend Sunday’s lunch meeting,respectively. Some MLAs said that Bajwa asked them to prove their loyalty by taking a pledge of Harminder Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar that they would not attend the meeting. Bajwa’s aides said Amarinder made three calls to each sitting and former MLA and district president requesting them to attend the lunch to celebrate the recent engagement of Amarinder’s grandson with the daughter of the Himachal Chief Minister.