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Cong sympathy for critic

New Delhi, Aug. 11: The Congress leadership has referred the outburst of a former MP, one of the voices of criticism since the Lok Sabha election defeat, to the A.K. Antony-headed disciplinary committee but many in the party feel that any attempt to crush dissent could prove counter-productive.

Sources said the case of Jagmeet Brar has been sent to the committee after his reply to the showcause notice was found unsatisfactory.

Brar, former MP and Congress Working Committee member, apparently denied having said that he wanted Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to take a two-year break but reiterated the rest of his critique, which focused on the ills afflicting the party. Brar had also said that all the general secretaries should have resigned after the defeat.

But what has generated curiosity in party circles is general secretary Janardan Dwivedi’s argument that the leadership should listen to workers’ voices as communication cannot be a one-way affair. The staunch family loyalist’s comment came amid a loud chorus against Brar’s outburst.

Brar today told The Telegraph: “I never said Sonia or Rahul should take a break. I said they should tour the entire country and re-establish their connect with the masses. In the meantime, the organisation can be looked after by some other leader. I, as well as thousands of Congressmen across the country, believe that drastic changes are required.”

Brar, who argued for “free spirit and debate”, said the high command should do a serious introspection and call a “Gambhir Chintan Shivir” to examine the causes of the defeat, the party’s worst ever.

He suggested that nobody should remain party president for more than two terms, that is for 10 years. Sonia has been the party chief since 1998.

Many other leaders have attacked key aides of Sonia and Rahul but Brar’s attack was viewed differently, although he has asserted complete loyalty to the party.

Dwivedi, who offered a sympathetic view of Brar’s outburst, was the one who had ruthlessly enforced “discipline” and the “party line” for years, berating even senior leaders for speaking out of turn. So, many leaders found it bizarre that a senior functionary could endorse a public outburst.

But most leaders feel Brar should be let off with a reprimand although he crossed the line by giving suggestions publicly.

Brar hasn’t yet got the message and continues to offer advice on how to revive the party. “We must unite all the former Congress leaders. Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar should be brought back. We can work under any leader to revive the Congress and fight the communal forces,” he said.

One way this statement can be interpreted is that Sonia and Rahul should be prepared to relinquish leadership for the larger unity of the Congress. It will be interesting if the Antony committee lets off this old warhorse who first shot into fame by defeating Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal.