Updated: April 30, 2022 11:11:45 pm
WITHIN A span of a few hours, the Congress on Tuesday did a volte-face regarding the disciplinary action it wanted to initiate against former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar. The party’s disciplinary action committee headed by A K Antony met in the morning and, according to sources, recommended that he be suspended from the party for two years.
It also recommended that veteran Congress leader from Kerala K V Thomas be removed from all party posts.
A decision on the recommendations was to be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. But by evening, the disciplinary action committee said its recommendation was only to remove Jakhar from all party posts. It is another matter that he does not hold any party post currently.
Thomas, on the other hand, is a member of the political affairs committee and executive committee of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. He will be removed from both posts.
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Soon after the meeting of the disciplinary action committee, one of its members said the recommendation was to suspend Jakhar for a period of two years.
When contacted in the evening, AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar, who is also the member-secretary of the disciplinary action committee, told The Indian Express that the panel never recommended Jakhar’s suspension. “No, no. We never recommended this. What we recommended was approved by the Congress president. We never recommended his suspension or expulsion. We only recommended he should be removed from any party position for some time,” he said.
“Both K V Thomas and Jakhar will remain in the party but will not hold any position in the party. This is the official version of the party,” he said.
Jakhar told The Indian Express that he had received no communication regarding any action against him. Asked about the decision to remove him from party positions, he said, “I don’t hold any position in the party. Which position are they removing me from?”
“The last position I held was the chairman of the campaign committee of Congress for Punjab elections and it ceased to exist after elections…. Earlier, I was a member of AICC (All India Congress Committee). I was not elected a member of AICC. I was a member of AICC by virtue of being a MP. The moment I ceased to be MP, I ceased to be a member of AICC too. So, which position are they removing me from?”
Anwar admitted Jakhar does not hold any position. “It can be in the near future that he will not be given any political assignments,” he said.
Incidentally, Jakhar had not even responded to the showcause notice issued by the disciplinary action committee.
After reports of his suspension earlier in the day, he wished the “Congress party good luck” and said he was subjected to “insult” by making “a public spectacle” of a showcause notice issued to him.
Hours before the reports of his suspension, he tweeted in Hindi: “Aaj sar kalam honge unke, jinme abhi zameer baaki hai (Today is the doomsday for those following their conscience).” He added in English “(My apologies to Javed Akhtar Saheb).”
“I have all the answers [to questions] they wanted [me to respond]. This is not the way. They should have talked to me. Not through notices. That is why I did not reply. [Due to] the very fact that a notice has been sent to me, I felt offended,” the 68-year-old Jakhar said, pointing out that he had been a Congressman for “five decades since 1972”.
“[Given] the manner they decided to treat me and make public spectacle of it, I decided not to respond to the notice. If there were any complaints against me, Sonia Gandhi should have got in touch with me or spoken to me over phone. I would have explained everything,” said Jakhar, who is son of Balram Jakhar, the longest serving Lok Sabha Speaker who also served as Madhya Pradesh Governor and was a Gandhi family loyalist.
A three-time MLA and one-time MP of Congress, Jakhar said, “Congress disciplinary action committee chairman A K Antony or party general secretary (in-charge organisation) K C Venugopal should have called me asking me to meet them and I would have clarified my position.”
Pointing out that he was senior to those who issued him the notice, Jakhar said if senior most Congress leadership thought that it was “below their dignity to get in touch with me [instead of me replying to the notice], then I decided not to respond”.
“That is the basic reason, I did not respond. You cannot make a public spectacle of me.”
Jakhar had courted controversy by labelling former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi a liability and claiming that the party did not choose him as its chief ministerial face as he is Hindu. In the case of Thomas, the disciplinary action committee had issued notice to him after the Congress’s leadership in Kerala demanded action against him for attending a seminar organised by the CPI(M) on the sidelines of the party’s national conclave in Kannur.
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