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Old Guard in Punjab Congress say High Command has been misled & party is fielding tainted candidates

Sunil Jakhar has accused senior Congress leader Ambika Soni of backstabbing Punjab by opposing his candidature for the post of Chief Minister on the grounds of religion (Pic. Courtesy ANI)

In a major embarrassment for the Congress, its old guard in Punjab has accused the top leadership of misleading the party high command and allotting party tickets to candidates connected with liquor, real estate, and sand mafias.

Sitting Rajya Sabha member and Dalit leader Shamsher Singh Dullo, former Rajya Sabha member and Union Minister Ashwani Kumar and former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee presidents Sunil Jakhar and H.S. Hanspal have criticised the party for taking wrong decisions in the run-up to the state assembly elections.

Dullo has alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab affairs in-charge Harish Chaudhary, and the screening committee misled the high command and forced it to field tainted candidates. He questioned Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu as to why he was sitting quietly over the issue of the wrong allotment of tickets?

Calling for an in-house inquiry Dullo demanded that responsibility should be fixed for harming the electoral interests of the party by bringing corrupt people to the forefront. He said that stalwarts like Mohinder KP, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Kishan Kumar Bawa, Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa, Nathu Ram,  Ajaib Singh Bhatti, and Daman Bajwa were denied party tickets.

Sunil Jakhar has accused senior Congress leader Ambika Soni of backstabbing Punjab by opposing his candidature for the post of Chief Minister on the grounds of religion. "I had 42 MLAs in my support but Soni misled the high command conveying that a Hindu cannot be made the Chief Minister of Punjab," Jhakar said.

Jakhar questioned the criteria of caste and religion to select candidates. He said that he was made leader of the opposition on the basis of his merit and not religion.

Jakhar further said that the high command had full faith in him but 3 or 4 leaders misled it following which his claim to the post of Chief Minister was ignored. He called upon all other political parties, including Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party to consider making an able Hindu or Scheduled Caste as the Chief Minister if they return to power.

Ashwani Kumar felt that the party has failed to gauge the mood of the people in the state and it seemed that the electorate this time has made up its mind in favour of AAP.

The former Union Minister also criticised the manner in which Charanjit Singh Channi was declared the CM face. Initially, the party had decided to go to elections under the joint leadership of Channi, Sidhu, and Jakhar but at the last-minute, it decided to change tracks. "Doing caste and religion-based politics is not only against the Constitution but also harms democracy," he said.

Ashwani Kumar showed his disagreement over continuously condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "This is negative politics," he added.

Ashwani Kumar expressed his displeasure at the action taken against senior Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia just before the elections. It smacked of vendetta, he said.

Former PCC chief Hanspal while quitting the Congress said that the party had lost contact with the grassroots and was being run by a handful of opportunists. He was seeking a ticket for his grandson Sunder Singh Hanspal from Sahnewal. Hanspal joined AAP along with his supporters.

Already Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa Gill, Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari, and Patiala MP Preneet Kaur are not campaigning for the party candidates.

Also read: Punjab Chief Minister Channi touches Sidhu’s feet showing the Punjab Congress chief may be down but not out