Thursday, September 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Bhattal complains to Sahay
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Sept 13 — The All-India Congress Committee’s observer for the Sunam byelection, Mr Subodh Kant Sahay, is busy setting the Congress house in order in Punjab. He met here today Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, a former Chief Minister, who has serious differences with the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, on many issues.

Mr Sahay admitted that he was here for bringing about harmony in the relations among senior leaders of the PPCC. He had a separate meeting with Mrs Bhattal and her supporters for a while. Though no details were available from Mrs Bhattal on the meeting, informed party sources said that he had a lot to complain about against Capt Amarinder Singh.

According to sources, she told Mr Sahay that Capt Amarinder Singh did not visit the Sunam constituency after the death of Mr Bhagwan Dass Arora, who was a Congress MLA and had won from Sunam last time. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had been to the constituency a number of times before the byelection was announced.

Capt Amarinder Singh did not consult senior party leaders of the Sangrur belt, especially Mrs Bhattal, with regard to the selection of the party candidate for the Sunam byelection at the initial stage. Mrs Bhattal is believed to have conveyed this to Mr Sahay. Mrs Bhattal is a crucial factor in the Sunam constituency as she belongs to Sangrur district.

After the filing of the nomination papers by Mrs Parmeshwari Devi, the Congress candidate for the Sunam byelection, all senior leaders, including Mrs Bhattal, went to Mrs Parmeshwari Devi’s residence and waited for Capt Amarinder Singh, who according to sources, turned up at the residence only when Mrs Bhattal had left. This was also brought to the notice of Mr Sahay, according to sources.

Mrs Bhattal, according to sources, told Mr Sahay that she had been given a raw deal by the leadership of the PPCC for the past many months. She was the Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha but was replaced by Chowdhary Jagjit Singh, a senior leader from the Doaba region. But after her removal as Leader of the Opposition, she was given neither due respect in party affairs nor suitably adjusted in the party set-up. Only recently she was accommodated in the party’s central election authority.

Mr Sahay, who met a few mediapersons at the residence of Mrs Bhattal this afternoon, said that all senior leaders were important for him. He is also scheduled to meet Capt Amarinder Singh. He was hopeful that all senior party leaders would campaign vigorously in Sunam.

Another issue which camp up at the meeting was the relations with the CPI, a party which has put up its own candidate for the Sunam byelection. Earlier, the CPI used to cooperate with the Congress. But this time it has refused to listen to the leadership of the Congress, which has tried its best so far to make the CPI agree to support the Congress candidate and to withdraw the CPI’s candidate, Mr Sampuran Singh, from the contest. However, the CPI is adamant on contesting the election.

Mr Sahay said that he would try to find out what had gone wrong regarding the party’s relations with the CPI in Punjab. He said that another attempt would be made to persuade the CPI to withdraw its candidate in support of the Congress. The CPI, according to sources, had told the Congress leadership that it (CPI) had its own identity which would be kept intact by not compromising on vital issues like elections.

A senior leader of the CPI told TNS that the Congress leadership in Punjab was behaving like a “big brother”. It had taken the CPI’s support in the Sunam poll for granted.

Mrs Bhattal has requested the party high command to take up the issue with the CPI leadership in Delhi. She also met Mr Moti Lal Vora, general secretary of the AICC, to request him to contact Mr A.B. Bardhan, secretary of the CPI.

Mrs Bhattal said that she would campaign in the Sunam constituency. She said that she had conveyed this to Capt Amarinder Singh, who had contacted her on the phone in this connection. Mrs Bhattal said that the Congress would win the byelection with an impressive margin.

Mr Sahay said that Mr Badal’s party was facing a critical time. Mr Badal was in panic and because of this he was campaigning day and night in Sunam. Mr Badal was aware of the fact that his party was on a weak wicket in Sunam area. He said the party would issue a charge sheet against the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.

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