His wings clipped soon after taking over as the Punjab Congress president,Partap Singh Bajwa seems to be trying to assert himself when it came to the rejig of the state executive.
Overruling AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhis instructions to create the team by taking Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar and four vice-presidents appointed by the party high command along,last week,Bajwa had submitted the list to Punjab in-charge Harish Chaudhary without consulting Jakhar. The list has also dropped names of non-performers handpicked by his predecessor Captain Amarinder Singh.
Bajwa said he has submitted the list to Chaudhary after was taking everybody along. I was given a free hand to reconstitute the PPCC. The only suggestion of the high command was to take the leader of opposition and four vice-presidents along,which I have. The list will be out once it is endorsed by Punjab general secretary in-charge Shakeel Ahmed and party president Sonia Gandhi, he added.
However,Jakhar claimed he is yet to be consulted on the list. The final list is not out. Maybe I will be consulted before the finalisation of the list. I am meeting Chaudhary and Ahmed in Delhi today. They may show me the list. I had refused to give my own list of names as I do not want to promote a few. Nearly 60 to 70 per cent office-bearers will be prominent leaders,who cannot be ignored. There has to be consensus on the remaining ones, he said.
Bajwa has not only ruffled feathers of Jakhar,with whom he has been locked in a credit war since last month,but also Amarinder. Many handpicked by Captain for key positions as vice-presidents,general secretaries and district congress committee presidents have been left in the cold. Bajwa,however,maintained only non-performers have been kept out.
Some people were fitted in the PCC at the expense of more established leaders. Some MLAs had secured appointment of aged and rubber stamp district presidents to run their writ. Many senior leaders,who were ignored,were not listening to juniors. To galvanise the party,we have to bring in established people who carry a clout both within party and administration, Bajwa said.
A vice-president close to Bajwa described his position is unenviable. Amarinder was allowed a free run. The president should be allowed to have his say by at least getting half of the office-bearers of his choice and create a team that will work along with him. Amarinders loyalists in the PCC are not cooperating with Bajwa. He cannot function if he is saddled with the old team, he said.
The Bajwa-Jakhar war escalated recently during their meetings with Sonia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Jakhar,who had sought time from Sonia and the PM for voicing his concerns on the Food Security Act was told by Bajwas MLA wife Charanjit Bajwa to take the PCC president along. But the PCC chief returned feeling cold-shouldered. He was unhappy at Jakhar getting to sit next to the PM while he sat with the MLAs. In the meeting with Sonia,he was again left waiting outside with MLAs while Jakhar got a private audience with her.
Going with the four vice-presidents also is getting tougher for him. At least two of the four vice-presidents appointed by the high command Tarclochan Singh and Gurpreet Kangar had given their dissenting notes in a meeting held by Bajwa last week to decide the PCC list.
The discontent within the party may intensify before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. While Amarinders team wants status quo till the polls sensing an adverse verdict would pave way for Captains return,Bajwa wants his feet firmly in the saddle before the verdict is out.
In a bid to do so,he is learnt to have accommodated loyalists of former leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal,who sees an ally in Bajwa after being sidelined. While giving some hardcore Amarinder loyalists a miss in the list,Bajwa has reportedly accommodated some fence-sitters,who would switch loyalties on the side the power balance lies.