Departing from party tradition by announcing him as the Chief Ministerial-designate in the run up to the January 30 assembly elections,Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is still batting for partys Punjab unit president Capt Amarinder Singh.
A delegation of 10 former ministers and MLAs from Punjab who met him Thursday at 10,Janpath demanding Amarinders ouster was told by Rahul in no uncertain terms that Amarinder alone cannot be blamed for the defeat.
It clearly indicates that the high command has yet to make up its mind on change of leadership in Punjab,though according to highly-placed sources,they want Amarinder to change his style of functioning.
Led by former Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira,the delegation cited Amarinders style of functioning through a coterie as the main reason for the defeat. In the written note on reasons for defeat submitted to Rahul,they said business tycoon Arvind Khanna,now Dhuri MLA,seized the opportunity by arranging for a paid team of employees to run the affairs of state Congress. Together they arranged a palatial residence at Sector 10 at Chandigarh,helicopter and gave PPCC office at Chandigarh a corporate-look to have complete control over Amarinder, the note reads.
It also accused Amarinder for failing to exploit strong anti-incumbency,mis-governance and corruption issues against SAD-BJP government such as monopoly over transport,sand quarrying,bulk liquor and cable network. Due to his laidback style,they merely relied on issuing press statements to counter SAD-BJP rather than taking the fight to masses, it said.
Blaming alienation of dalits from the party to feudal style of Singh and culture of late night parties and not visiting poor,victimised families,it said,the 70-year-old Amarinder is no match to younger (less than 50 years) presidents of Akali Dal,Peoples Party of Punjab and BSP. The others reasons cited are poorly managed poll campaign,bad media management and no effort to pacify rebel Congress candidates financed by Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal.
It also put a part of the blame on the UPA government saying Hindus of Punjab were affected by various scams of the UPA government and no help was given to Congress unit in the state by the UPA government resulting in ruling combine taking credit for all centrally-sponsored schemes and the PPCC could not counter this propaganda. The reasons-list also cited late and unfair distribution of tickets,including to undeserving kith and kin of leaders.
According to sources,one of delegation members also alleged donations worth crores of rupees being siphoned off and no financial help to candidates as compared to massive display of money power by Sukhbir Badal. Requesting for appointing a young,dynamic Jat Sikh leader as PPCC president,they said continuing with Amarinder would prove suicidal and may result in Congress ending up UP or Bihar way.
After reading the note,Rahul said there should be collective responsibility for the defeat and the party needs to be revamped in the state. We told him if the responsibility is collective then there should be a complete overhaul,right from those in PPCC to district presidents,all should go, said a member of the delegation on condition of anonymity. Other than Khaira,it comprised former MLAs Ripjit Brar,Surinderpal Sibia,Mangat Rai Bansal,Raman Bhalla besides Congress organisational secretary Anil Dutta. MLA Randeep Nabha has given his written consent to the note given to Gandhi.