Cong sees Majha-Malwa split as focus shifts to Panthic issues
Chandigarh, September 6
The Punjab Congress’ pursuit of a Panthic agenda, currently centred on the alleged complicity of Dera Sacha Sauda in the sacrilege cases, has party leaders, ministers and MLAs from Majha and Malwa regions pulling in different directions.
Leaders from Majha, a high Sikh-dominated area, led by Cabinet ministers Tript Rajinder Bajwa, Sukhjinder Randhawa and Navjot Singh Sidhu, besides Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar are steering the party line to “expose collusion” between the dera head and Akalis.
However, this has left leaders from Malwa uncomfortable, as the area has a high representation of dera followers. Support on the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report, therefore, hasn’t been much from leaders of Rajpura, Ghanour, Samana, Shutrana, Sangrur, Mansa, and Bathinda. Apparently, they don’t want to antagonise the dera followers ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
On his part, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, while promising tough action against the Badals, has thus far desisted from directly accusing the dera followers for their involvement in the sacrilege incidents.
An MLA from Patiala district told The Tribune: “Last year, when violence broke out in Panchkula, the Congress government had arranged food and transport for the dera men. By targeting them, leaders from Majha are making things difficult for us in the run-up to the LS polls.”
Most MLAs from Malwa had also maintained silence on the dera issue during the Vidhan Sabha session. “If we speak against dera, we offend its followers and if we support them, we would be labelled Badal supporters. So we prefer to remain quite,” an MLA from Ludhiana district said.
By picking three urban Hindu leaders for the Cabinet, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had tried to appease the Hindu vote bank, but recent developments could alienate this segment along with Dalits, upsetting the calculations for the Lok Sabha polls.
After registering high winning margins in the Assembly polls and later in the Gurdaspur and Shahkot bypolls, the Majha brigade has been in a position to influence the party strategy. Randhawa and Bajwa, the traditional Congressmen who have fed on anti-Akali politics of the Majha region, have emerged as strong voices in the party.
A veteran Congress leader recalled that the state Congress’ mingling with hardliners had worked against the party in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The Aam Aadmi Party had a similar experience in 2017.
With Intelligence agencies raising the flag on alleged links between promoters of Referendum 2020 and Sikh activists in Punjab seeking action on sacrilege incidents, the BJP could use it to woo back the Hindu vote by accusing the Congress of supporting the radicals.