The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Revolt whiff in Punjab Congress

Chandigarh, Aug. 6: In the first clear indication that all is not well in the Punjab Congress, seven MPs today submitted a memorandum to party president Sonia Gandhi highlighting their concern over “certain” workers publicly criticising the state leadership.

The MPs include R.L. Bhatia, Balbir Singh, S.S. Dullo, Jagmeet Singh Brar, Gurcharan Singh Galib, Charanjit Singh Channi, Praneet Kaur and Ashwani Kumar.

As many as 22 Congress legislators have met Sonia during the last few days expressing their unhappiness with chief minister Amarinder Singh.

The MPs alleged that the legislators were playing into the hands of the Akali-BJP leadership for their own political agendas and diluting the state government’s drive against corruption.

State Congress sources said the MPs requested Sonia to rein in the dissidents. “They are trying to destabilise Punjab,” a senior Congress leader said.

Dissent in the state Congress is flowing from the camp headed by agriculture minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who faces prosecution in a corruption case. Bhattal has blamed Amarinder for pressing the case against her and fears being dropped from the cabinet.

Some legislators loyal to Faridkot MP Jagmeet Singh Brar are also up in arms against Amarinder for being “ignored” by the coterie of officers in the chief minister’s office.

Many have even threatened to quit the party, float their own faction and seek Shiromani Akali Dal support to form a new government. Former industry minister Avtar Singh Henry’s name is being floated as a possible replacement for Amarinder.

While Bhattal’s role in the “mini-revolt” is not known, Akali sources said the former chief minister has been keeping in touch with Parkash Singh Badal over the last couple of months.

Amarinder was summoned by Sonia yesterday for a briefing on the brewing rebellion and his “autocratic” style of functioning. The party high command, wise after the Arunachal Pradesh debacle, has taken the matter seriously and has reportedly asked the chief minister to “mend fences” with his legislators and ministers. Sources said the chief minister has also been asked to go slow on vigilance raids on Badal and his relatives’ properties.

The revolt has given a new lease of life to the Shiiromani Akali Dal whose leaders, including Badal, have been reeling under corruption charges for over a year. The party is expected to announce a religious agitation at its political conference at Baba Bakala on August 12.

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