After his last visit sparked a controversy,the second round of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhis Punjab tour had a clear message: speak about party not individuals. He snubbed both,detractors and loyalists of Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh and asked partymen to convey their reasons for why the party lost a winning battle.
Sample this: To an MLA who complained about five-star culture in the party,in oblique reference to Amarinders style of functioning,his retort was: You seem to be wearing an expensive wrist watch. How much did it cost you?
The surprised MLA uttered a figure that made Rahul remark,Yours seems to be a seven-star culture. He also did not miss taking a note of jewellery worn by the MLA.
To a District Congress Committee (DCC) president,who wanted to showcase his loyalty to Amarinder,he said,Dont speak about Captain. Aap apni baat boliye (speak about what you think). After septuagenarian DCC president of Kapurthala,Harjit Parmar,attributed his chair to the largesse of Amarinder,he asked Parmar if he was getting due respect in the party or ever got a chance to fight an election.
Other than zila parishad,block samiti and civic body members,he met delegations from different districts,each comprising a random mix of block,district presidents and party MLAs.
The aggrieved ones cited many reasons for the poll rout. While former minister,Joginder Mann,claimed those perceived as rivals were singled out and kept out of the poll fray,a few others said only pliable people have been appointed as DCC presidents and to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). Some MLAs also complained that their names were included in list of signatories released by PPCC without their consent after his visit last week. A few leaders said the timing of SGPC and youth Congress polls cost them votes while some block and district level office-bearers said the sole merit for poll tickets was being kin and loyalist of a Member of Parliament or senior leader. Some also said overconfidence did the party in.
While he could not altogether stop party leaders from speaking for or against change of guard in the state,he made it very clear that he wants them to speak for themselves. He is trying to understand the malfunctioning of Punjab Congress by knowing the views of party leaders from grassroots level to the MLAs, a senior Congress leader said.
And Rahuls eyes and ears during this exercise was his team. While two of them took down notes of Rahuls interaction,others were talking and hearing out leaders of all levels at the venue for preparing what is to be Rahuls own account on Punjab poll debacle.