Show of strength at two places
Shimla: The recent assembly of Congress MLAs at the private residence of Union Minister Virbhadra Singh and their rejection of the official invitation for the Kangra rally of Union Commerce and Industry and Textile Minister Anand Sharma has once again brought the party factionalism into public eye in the election year.
Singh chose to call the assemblage at his place as a political meeting before the coming Vidhan Sabha elections and said it has nothing to do with the PCC rally to be addressed by Anand Sharma who was on an official tour to inaugurate the Regional Tea Board office in Palampur.
Whereas, the PCC leaders headed by the State Chief Kaul Singh Thakur have condemned the action of Singh as a breach of party discipline and an act of disorder, created at the last moment to sabotage and interfere with the official programme of the party.
By releasing some papers against the illegal acquisition of properties by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s family, Virbhadra Singh has tried to downplay the importance of the charge sheet being made by the PCC team after having collected substantiations against the BJP government misrule from a long time, said a member of charge sheet committee.
The head of this committee and sitting MLA, G.S. Bali was to release the document this week in Delhi and had to hand it over the same to AICC President.
Bali had requested the Congress leaders to submit the proofs to the committee instead of releasing it individually and taking more credit than the party. The party High Command has backed the efforts of Bali and his team.
Virbhadra Singh who has refused to call the support of 13 MLAs as a show of strength has categorically demanded the declaration of name of the chief ministerial candidate by the high command well in time.
His core group of supporters (MLAs) said that they would not allow the party centre to use Singh for the elections and later appoint somebody else as the Chief Minister.
But many of the MLAs present with him in the meeting are known fence sitters and can switch sides to the other faction led by Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh, once they get the backing of the High Command, say insiders.
On the other hand PCC Chief Kaul Singh who wants to avoid confrontation with the Union Minister said the party has no culture of projecting chief ministerial candidate before the elections and a similar attempt in neighbouring Punjab proved to be a disaster for the party in the recent polls.
He said demanding a reply on this account was unabashedly “pressurising the organisation” and can be called an “anti-party activity”.
The central leadership at Delhi will be apprised of these ill-timed and anti-party utterances, he said.
The CLP leader from the State Mrs Vidya Stokes has also time and again said that no individual is above the party and one should remain in a party discipline.
Neutral political observers in the state are calling the factional developments in Congress a clear shot in the arm of BJP and its leader Dhumal, who despite the formation of Himachal Lokhit Party by some old party disgruntles, is facing almost negligible opposition within his own party.
The state would go to polls under his leadership only, says state BJP chief Satpal Satti.
KY Singh is a political observer and a senior journalist with an interest in a diverse set of issues related to Himachal Pradesh and other mountain states. He lives in Shimla.