Congress becomes 'laughing stock' for Akalis (Punjab Newsletter)
By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, March 22 : A series of election losses in the last one year, public bickering among top leaders, a legislator deserting the party, some disastrous political moves and confused cadres - this is the state of Punjab's principal opposition, the Congress.
As the Congress sinks to new lows, it has become a mere "laughing stock" for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal.
Even worse, despite all the turmoil and the political losses, there is no sign that the top Congress leadership in the state has learnt its lessons.
When former chief minister Amarinder Singh was finally removed as the state Congress president recently and replaced by the Lok Sabha MP from Gurdaspur, Pratap Singh Bajwa, he lost no time in declaring that the Congress high command, meaning party chief Sonia Gandhi, did not consult him before making the change.
"I would have suggested the name of a better candidate," a petulant Amarinder Singh said.
With such a statement coming from, perhaps, the most popular Congress leader in the state, Bajwa's innings has certainly started on the wrong note.
This happened at a time when the Congress virtually ended with egg on its face after recent events during the assembly's budget session.
Some of its legislators, headed by Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar, took a woman who had been brutally thrashed by Punjab Police into the high-security assembly building without a valid permit. What ensued, with Congress legislators being caught on camera getting into physical fights with assembly security personnel, left the party further embarrassed.
Nine legislators were suspended by the speaker from the remainder of the budget session.
"The directionless, leaderless Congress party has reduced itself to a laughing stock,"
cabinet minister and Youth Akali Dal president Bikram Singh Majithia said.
Majithia, brother-in-law of Punjab's all-powerful Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, said that after Joginder Pal Jain, at least five more Congress legislators were "making desperate bids" to join the Akali Dal.
Jain, the Congress legislator from Moga, had quit the party and his assembly seat last December and joined the Akali Dal. He got re-elected on the Akali Dal ticket from the same seat last month.
Bajwa, who recently offered prayers at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, had asked all 45 Congress legislators to come there and pledge that they will have nothing to do with the Akalis politically. Only 20 of them showed up - and the top Congress leadership was conspicuous by its absence.
While Bajwa is trying to activate the party leadership and cadres, he is unlikely to get open support from top leaders like Amarinder Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Sunil Jakhar, Jagmeet Singh Brar and a few others.
Amarinder Singh led the party through a series of electoral defeats, including the January 2012 assembly election.
His "royal" style of functioning and disconnect from party workers and people in general were blamed for the party's "unexpected" defeat.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)