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Punjab Cong dissidents flex their muscles
Tribune News Service

Dissident Punjab Congress MLAs share sweets after deposing before the three-member AICC panel in the Capital
Dissident Punjab Congress MLAs share sweets after deposing before the three-member AICC panel in the Capital on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, December 9
In a show of strength, the dissident Punjab Congress MLAs led by state Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh today paraded their supporters before the three-member AICC panel set up to look after the grievances of party leaders.

The Bhattal group claimed that 27 MLAs, including six ministers aired their views in favour of a change of leadership in the state before the panel.

On the other hand, the Chief Minister was accompanied by four MLAs, including state Congress PCC chief H.S. Hanspal. Captain Amarinder Singh, however, claimed that the consultations by the AICC were being held on his suggestion and had not called all his supporters to present themselves before the panel.

While the Bhattal camp claimed that the panel was “positive” to their views, the Captain’s camp was optimistic that they had the strength and the panel was not in favour of any change in leadership.

The Bhattal camp got further boost with state Congress MP R.L. Bhatia and former Union Minister Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder extending their support.

The dissident camp, further claimed, that seven party legislators, who were caught up with the social functions today, would meet the AICC panel tomorrow.

They also claimed that another seven-member group, which had been maintaining independent stand, had also decided to extend their support to the Bhattal camp. Further, four of the seven Independents had also decided to support the Bhattal group’s call of change in state leadership.

With this, the Bhattal group claims to have secured the support of 45 MLAs out of the 65 Congress legislators in the House.

The drama of show of strength started early in the morning with the Bhattal group and the Amarinder Singh group greeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi separately on her birthday and apprising the three-member AICC committee of their views on the leadership issue.

The dissidents, who assembled in the morning at the residence of Mr R.L. Bhatia, later went together to greet Ms Gandhi. They raised slogans of “Sonia Gandhi zindabad” and “Beant Singh Amar Rahe” while greeting the Congress President. The dissident Ministers and MLAs later met the AICC committee looking into the grievances of the party leaders from Punjab.

The dissident MLAs, sources in the Bhattal camp said, expressed in one voice to the panel that they should “save the Congress” or “save Amarinder”.

They claimed that the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls could be poor if the party continued with Mr Amarinder Singh.

Other issues raised by the dissidents include the style of functioning of the Chief Minister, lack of interaction, the increasing hold of bureaucracy and the neglect of the voice of the people’s representatives in the running of the government, sources said.

Six ministers and nearly 25 MLAs were heard by the AICC committee today. Two ministers and six MLAs had met the committee yesterday. Continuing the process of consultation, the three Central leaders will meet other party MLAs tomorrow.

The raids at the offices and residences of MLAs also figured in the grievance presented by the panel and the dissidents claimed that it was a strong-arm tactics by the Chief Minister to toe his line.

Meanwhile, Capt Amarinder Singh has sought an appointment with Ms Gandhi tomorrow to get a nod for Cabinet expansion. The loyalists of the Chief Minister are of the view that a nod for Cabinet expansion would take the wind out of sails of the dissidents.


Amarinder explains dissidence
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today told the three-member AICC committee looking into grievances of party legislators that the problem of dissidence in the state was a result of personal ambitions of some MLAs and ministers.

Sources said that the Chief Minister, who met the committee members for over two hours in the evening, told them about shortage of funds was coming in the way of speedy development in the state.

The Chief Minister gave answers to the committee members about the various complaints made by the dissident legislators over the past two days.

The Chief Minister denied accusations levelled by the dissidents about his “inaccessibility.” He is also understood to have expressed his unhappiness over the “indiscipline” by some legislators.

Mr Amarinder Singh and PCC chief H S Hanspal will meet the committee tomorrow again. The committee will submit a report to party president Sonia Gandhi about the problems faced by the state party unit and suggest remedial steps. Sources said that a decision on the Chief Minister’s proposal for cabinet expansion will depend on the outcome of his talks with committee tomorrow.

Meanwhile the dissidents, who have landed in the capital in full strength, are also planning to meet some Congress Working Committee members regarding their demand for replacing the Chief Minister.

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