M A I N   N E W S

Is Punjab CLP heading for change?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 30
Dissidence within the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) has started concretising with the emergence of Beant Singh group claiming as many as 42 of sitting party legislators, including several ministers, as its members.

Members of the group, pledging allegiance to the ideals of late Chief Minister, have been moving together at all official and social functions. During the past two days, the group has made its newly established solidarity public at social functions held at the weddings of wards of two Ministers.

Besides displaying unity, members of the Beant Singh group also tend to stay away from their CLP leader and his entourage at these functions. Yesterday, at the wedding reception of Mr Harkirat Singh, a grandson of late Mr Beant Singh, while members of the new “rebel” group came together, wished the newly weds together and occupied a large single table obviously to be seen together as a group.

When the Chief Minister accompanied by two other ministers and his political secretary arrived at the function, none of them got up to greet or escort him. This action was repeated today at the wedding of a daughter of Mr Jasjeet Singh Randhawa, Public Health Minister, where Beant Singh group members and the Chief Minister sat separately giving credence to the speculations that all is not well within the Punjab CLP.

The dissidents have chosen “Chacha Johar” — Higher Education Minister Harnam Dass Johar - as their leader for social functions. The group had its first display of solidarity at the Iftar party early this week.

Sources within the Punjab CLP reveal that a couple of delegations comprising some Ministers and legislators have already met the party high command during the past some days. “It is at the instance of the high command that we have been maintaining a low profile till assembly elections in five states are held,” revealed a senior leader of the new group.

Yesterday, the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and other central leaders, including Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, rang up Mrs Pradhan Kaur, widow of Mr Beant Singh, to greet her on the wedding of her grandson.

“Development and contact with masses at the grassroot level, are the basic issues which have brought us together. Law and order situation is deteriorating and the vigilance has been given brute power,” allege members of the group holding that soon they will go to New Delhi and apprise the party high command of the declining popularity of the party in the State.

“Unless this trend is arrested without any further delay, it would suffer a humiliating defeat in the coming Lok Sabha elections in the state is what we have conveyed to the party high command, “ reveals another leader on condition of anonymity.

The Beant Singh group claims to have set up its offices both at the Punjab Bhavan and also at the residence of a former Member of Parliament from Majha belt.

“Our group has base not only in the CLP but has also been gaining strength both in the PPCC and also in the AICC,” he added.

“We have not yet decided about our leader,” he says, holding that most of the members of the group would openly rally around Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in case their opinion is sought on the issue.

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