The Congress in Punjab lurched into another crisis today after ex-state unit chief Sunil Jakhar sneered at the party for apparently forgetting former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary.
At 11.32 am Mr Jakhar – who has not shied away from criticism over the Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu feud, or taking swipes at Chief Minister Charanjit Channi – tweeted an ad from last year – when Amarinder Singh was still Chief Minister – that featured quotes from both leaders.
The senior leader declared he was ‘borrowing’ the ad as “none appeared today”.
“I can understand BJP trying to erase the ‘Iron Lady of India’ from history, but don’t we still have a Congress government in Punjab. PS: I know Captain saab won’t mind my using this Punjab government’s ad from last year, as none appeared today,” he said.
I can understand BJP trying to erase ‘Iron Lady of India’ from history but don’t we still have a Congress Government in Punjab.
PS. I know Capt Saab won’t mind my using this PB Govt’s ad from last year, as none appeared today pic.twitter.com/yJSMIYQuPg
— Sunil Jakhar (@sunilkjakhar) October 31, 2021
The Congress’ Punjab handle responded an hour later with a photo and the caption: “We pay tribute to the Iron Lady of India and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ji on her death anniversary.”
We pay tribute to the Iron Lady of India and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi Ji on her death anniversary. pic.twitter.com/tSFiG8wimH
— Punjab Congress (@INCPunjab) October 31, 2021
The party’s central handle has been posting tributes to Mrs Gandhi since early this morning.
— Congress (@INCIndia) October 31, 2021
On Thursday Mr Jakhar offered cryptic comment on Arvind Kejriwal’s visit; he tweeted the Delhi Chief Minister was in Punjab while the Punjab Chief Minister was in Delhi “yet again”.
Continuing turmoil in Punjab turmoil comes at an inopportune time for the Congress, which is scrambling to keep its shape and prep for a re-election campaign for next year’s polls.
The Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu feud exploded in September and led to Mr Singh resigning (he claimed “humiliation”), a sulking Mr Sidhu made Punjab Congress chief (he wanted Mr Singh’s job) and Charanjit Channi made the state’s first Dalit Sikh leader (with one eye on the poll math).
Mr Jakhar had hit out at Harish Rawat (the former Uttarakhand Chief Minister was then the party’s state-in-charge) over his support of Mr Sidhu, declaring it “undermined” Mr Channi’s authority.
Mr Sidhu’s subsequent and dramatic ‘resignation’ as Punjab Congress chief – upset that he was not consulted by the Chief Minister over some appointments – made matters worse, with Mr Jakhar slamming the former cricketer for his actions. “It’s just not cricket… ” he tweeted.
Since then, the party has also had to face the prospect of losing votes to Amarinder Singh, who remains a hugely influential figure and has announced his intention to start his own outfit and hold seat-sharing talks with the BJP and breakaway Akali Dal factions.
Yesterday Mr Singh (via his media advisor Raveen Thukral) rubbished rumours of backchannel talks with the Congress; he said “the time for rapprochement is over” and that he “will not stay”.