M A I N   N E W S

Congress MLAs head for Delhi
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7
Members of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and other senior leaders from the State will be camping in the Union Capital from tomorrow as developments emanating from the trouble shooting exercise undertaken by the Congress high command will decide the future of the present leadership of the State.

Though “dissidents” are exuberant with confidence claiming that their ranks have been swelling every day, the “ruling group” claims that it enjoys two-third majority within the CLP and “dissidence” was nothing more than an “illusion of a handful distractors”.

The dissidents, claiming themselves to be members of a newly-floated Shaheed Beant Singh group, hope that the three-member team would apprise the party President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, about the need for a change in the CLP leadership failing which they would submit a memorandum to their national leader.

Copies of the memorandum, they maintain, may also be given to the Governor hoping that a final word on the issue would be said by the middle of this month.

The three-member trouble shooting team comprising Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Mohsina Kidwai and Mr Ahmed Patel has already started consulting members of Parliament, legislators and other senior leaders of the party from the State.

Tomorrow is a significant day not only because the Shiromani Akali Dal is starting a “panthic morcha” in Patiala or the petition filed by the wife of Rajya Sabha member Sukhbir Singh Badal is coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court but also because Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, appears in a local court.

The team has summoned all those who matter in Punjab Congress affairs. A group of party MLAs, including Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Mr Harnam Dass Johar and others have been asked to meet the members of the team tomorrow. Since Mrs Bhattal has a court appearance tomorrow, she is reported to have conveyed to the party high command that she will reach Delhi tomorrow only if she is free from her court case in time. Otherwise, she will appear before the committee on Tuesday.

The move for change hinges on the corruption case facing Mrs Bhattal who has been making no secret of her feelings that “people from within the party in general and the present government in particular were out to implicate me”.

After the debacle in the recent assembly elections, the Congress high command has been finding itself in a piquant situation as the Akalis were trying to put the entire blame for the corruption cases against the Badals on Mrs Sonia Gandhi to give credence to the argument that the one-point agenda of the Congress was to bash the Akalis. The allegation of the Akalis that Mrs Sonia Gandhi was personally monitoring the case against the Badals after the failure of the party to dabble in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee elections in November last year was also worrying the party’s think tank.

“With the case charging Shiromani Akali Dal President Parkash Singh Badal now committed to court, the Congress high command has initiated an exercise aimed at clearing the confounded atmosphere and pending grievances within the party’s Punjab unit,” an unsigned press note issued on behalf of the ruling group said.

It said the possibility of early Lok Sabha elections has added a sense of urgency to completing this task, for which a three-member AICC committee, will meet groups of Punjab legislators, who had earlier conveyed their “unhappiness” with the specific aspects of the Amarinder administration, tomorrow.

“No, Ms Sonia will not be meeting these people. It is only that we had promised before the recent Assembly elections and Mr Ahmed Patel has summoned them to Delhi to come and discuss their grievances. There will be no discussion on the possibility of any leadership change in Punjab, Ms Kidwai, who is the Congress general secretary looking after Punjab, said this morning.

Meanwhile, Congress sources said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had already apprised the party high command of small groups of two to three MLAs each.

It further said Mrs Bhattal, against whom charges could soon be framed in a corruption case involving the embezzlement of Rs 20 lakh of government funds, was desperate to dislodge the Chief Minister.

“Being the shrewd politician that she is, Ms Bhattal has apparently gone about promising all sorts of favours to party MLAs and incumbent ministers. According to what she has promised the MLAs if they help her topple Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab will end up having six Deputy Chief Ministers, seven finance ministers and an equally ridiculous count of other important Cabinet portfolios, said a minister, who has been in and out of Ms Bhattal’s loop”, the press note said.

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