Punjab Congress in resignation soup (News Analysis)

May 20th, 2008 - 10:30 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, May 20 (IANS) The Congress party’s fiat to all its legislators in Punjab to resign from the assembly to protest against election violence has backfired. The resignations submitted by nearly all of the 44 Congress legislators to party president Sonia Gandhi was thought to be the party’s offensive against the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over the violence in local body polls. But it has only embarrassed the Congress.

The Akalis, especially Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal, are telling the Congress to get serious and submit the resignations to the governor or the assembly speaker.

“I challenge the Congress legislators to quit their seats and face elections to test their popularity. Why have this drama? These resignations are a gimmick,” Sukhbir Singh said.

The Congress leadership, led by former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, has managed to obtain the resignations of most of its legislators - barring former chief minister Amarinder Singh and a handful of his supporters among legislators.

The ostensible reason was to protest against the “murder of democracy” by the Akalis in the Zila Parishad and Block Samiti elections held last week.

An upbeat Bhattal said she would submit the resignations to Sonia Gandhi.

But the move by Bhattal has drawn criticism from some of her party colleagues.

“She is playing into the hands of the Akalis. Where is the need to resign? She should have instead told the Congress legislators to fight against the Akalis. The Congress (with 44 legislators) is a strong opposition in the state,” pointed out Amarinder Singh, whose differences with Bhattal are known.

“This is not the right step. It is a cowardly act by the party. The state Congress president should have adopted a tough stand and made her MLAs fight the wrongdoings of the government. We cannot betray the people who elected the Congress legislators,” Amarinder Singh said.

The Akali-BJP combine won last week’s elections with thumping leads even as the Congress accused the Akalis of resorting to violence, rigging, intimidation and misuse of official machinery.

Although the BJP also raised a storm over violence resorted to by Akali Dal activists during the elections, the two alliance parties have since made up.

The Akalis rule Punjab with BJP support because they do not have a clear majority in the 117-member assembly.

Though the Congress, which ruled the state during 2002-07 under Amarinder Singh, lost the assembly elections last year, it was not decimated. It has 44 legislators compared to 48 seats of the Akalis and 19 of the BJP.

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