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Friday, October 22, 2021

Punjab progress under Capt didn’t get appreciated: Manish Tewari

The performance of the Congress in Punjab in the 2019 Lok Sabha election (winning 8 seats out of 13) despite the Modi wave reaffirmed the mandate of 2017, Tewari, the MP from Anandpur Sahib, said.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
October 1, 2021 3:28:40 am
Congress MP Manish Tewari. (File)

People in the AICC who were given responsibility for Punjab could not appreciate the way the state had progressed over the last four and a half years — and that is the reason for the current political crisis, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said on Thursday.

The performance of the Congress in Punjab in the 2019 Lok Sabha election (winning 8 seats out of 13) despite the Modi wave reaffirmed the mandate of 2017, Tewari, the MP from Anandpur Sahib, said.

Punjab under Captain Amarinder Singh was “politically stable (and) progressing in the correct direction”, the former Union minister told The Indian Express in an interview.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t get appreciated by those in the AICC leadership. From May of 2021, Punjab entered into a spectre of instability which was completely unnecessary and those people who were charged with the responsibility, to support the state government, they never perhaps appreciated the sensitivity of handling a border state which has an overhang of extremism and terrorism that consumed 35,000 lives between 1980-1995…,” Tewari said.

“Therefore we have landed up in the current situation,” he said.

Tewari said that 10 of the 11 Congress MPs from Punjab had opposed the selection of Navjot Singh Sidhu as president of the state party unit, but the national leadership had still gone ahead.

“We wanted it to be reconsidered. If 10 MPs petitioned the Congress president in writing, they must have done so because they had some genuine and valid concerns about how it would play out in future,” Tewari said.

Sidhu, who was made PPCC chief in July, suddenly quit on Tuesday. Amarinder had opposed Sidhu’s appointment, and alleged he had connections with the Pakistani establishment.

Tewari warned that political instability in Punjab could “play directly into the hands of evil designs of the Pakistani deep state”.

“There has been a compounding of the problem, primarily because the farm agitation has completely stretched the social fabric in Punjab… I say with regret that the people who are charged with the remit of looking after Punjab never appreciated the sensitivity with which the border state is to be dealt with.”

Tewari, who is one of the so-called “Group of 23” leaders who wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi asking for a restructuring of the party organisation at all levels, said that every right-thinking Congressperson wants to strengthen the party with “a leadership, a narrative, a robust organisation and appropriate amount of access to resources in order to be able to ensure that the NDA-BJP juggernaut is neutered”.

Any attempt to misconstrue this as dissent, or give it any other name would be the “greatest disservice to the bona fide genuine intentions of the Congressmen who are concerned about the party”, he said.

“There are certain vested interests who for their own purely partisan purposes would like the leadership to believe that this is some kind of insurrection or mutiny against them. As I have cited ad nauseam over the past one year, it has not been the intent; the only interest is, how do you strengthen the Congress party so that it can save the idea of India which has been under unstinted attack over the past seven years?”

Tewari said he remained optimistic about the role the Congress could play to bring the opposition together against the NDA regime.

“We would be failing a historic responsibility if we do not measure up to the challenge,” he said.

The so called “divide” between the loyalists of the party and loyalists of the Gandhi family was “artificial”, Tewari said — created by “people purely in order to satiate their own personal agenda”.

He also clarified a cryptic tweet he had posted on the day student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was inducted into the Congress from the CPI — Tewari had said it would be worthwhile to look at the history of the communist presence in the party.

Tewari said it was he who had suggested to Kanhaiya when he met him in Thiruvananthapuram during the Kerala assembly election campaign, that he should join the Congress. “I welcome his induction into the party. I think he is an extremely energetic young person and his induction would definitely strengthen the Congress in Bihar,” Tewari said.

“However”, he said, “there are certain issues, because of which I referred to Kumaramangalam’s thesis, which is an interesting book written in 1973. The reason I referred to it was this: The Congress has travelled a long way from the Garibi Hatao of 1971 to the neo-liberal economy that it embraced in 1991. Therefore, these people who are brought into the Congress party, are they comfortable or willing to accept the expansive liberal and global ideological orientation of the Congress party towards the economy? I had put out the tweet in this context.”

Tewari demanded strong action from the Congress leadership against those responsible for the protests outside senior leader Kapil Sibal’s residence on Thursday evening. He recalled that in 1987, when a group of Congressmen protested against V P Singh, who had left the party following differences with its then leadership, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had expelled those responsible for the protests.

Tewari played down talk about Captain Amarinder’s possible meeting with G-23 leaders. “Singh has spent close to a lifetime in the Congress… If somebody indeed wants to meet another colleague, I would ask myself, can that be classified as blasphemy?”.

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