Reappearing on the political scene after remaining in a self-imposed political exile for three months, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sunil Jakhar yet again brought up the power struggle between Congress workers and bureaucrats as he defended the appointment of MLAs as advisers to the Punjab CM.
Speaking to the media after a party meeting in Chandigarh, Jakhar said: “My single point is to restore power to workers, to withdraw the power from officers and restore the honour and political space of workers who have fought the elections on the ground. The officers have to be accountable to people. We want the people to know the government is theirs.”
During the meeting, Jakhar is learnt to have listened to party leaders’ resentment over importance given to officials, and about overlooking some MLAs for the adviser’s position.
Later, he told the media: “No MLA is upset. Nobody was made the adviser because he was miffed. As per political set up, only those can give advice who have passed a political exam (election). People’s problems cannot be solved sitting in the Secretariat. Wherever more advisers would be needed they will be appointed.”
Hitting back at the opposition on the adviser’s issue, he said: “SAD had 26 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries. AAP also had 21 MLA as CPS in Delhi. Advisers are required, they should give advice. It is not a presidential government that only bureaucrats should keep giving advice. It is the prerogative of the Chief Ministers. Political people feel the pulse of the people,”
The meeting was attended by general secretary incharge Asha Kumari, and Preneet Kaur, Patiala MP and wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
“PPCC president gave a pep talk to the workers and assured them that he would get them their due. He even raised the issue of Punjab government bringing an ordinance in Monday’s Cabinet to raise age bar for the chairperson of Punjab State SC Commission, Tejinder Kaur, who turns 70 this month without naming her. (The ordinance to amend Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes Act, 2004, would allow her to continue for another two years as the amendment has raised age bar from 70 to 72). He said if rules are to be amended, these should be done for the workers.”
In the press conference, Jakhar reiterated, “Captain sahib knows everything that the workers made this government. They are accountable to people who voted for their party. We will give them their honour and respect.”
About whether those not listening to party MLAs would be transferred, Jakhar added, “Transfers of officers is no solution. Jehda Lahore budhu, oh Pishore vi budhu (An idiot in Lahore is an idiot in Pishore [Peshawar]). The transfer is not the solution. Our aim is an administration that is responsive to the needs of people. They will not be tolerated if they cannot be doing service to them.”
When asked if political input was not taken by the government and bureaucrats were appointed on several posts meant for politicians, Jakhar asked Asha Kumari to answer. Kumari, said, “After Vidhan Sabha elections, we had listed the workers who would be made chairpersons. There are some posts where the law allows only the officials to be ex-officio chairpersons. We had shortlisted the names, sent them to Rahul Gandhi, they were approved, there is no such thing that political input is not taken.”
Jakhar, meanwhile, said that he would not contest any Assembly bypoll. Four Assembly segments would soon go for bypolls in the state. He said that he has already conveyed his decision to the party.