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PL Punia’s tour to Doon is mission incomplete

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Infighting in Congress

By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 17 Apr: Central observer PL Punia, appointed by the Congress High Command, had landed in Dehradun on 15 April on a 3 day tour to broker peace among the warring party leaders. The visit concluded today. However, the tour proved a mission incomplete, since he failed to resolve the issues and differences between different factions and leaders within the party. While on the first day of his arrival on 14 April, Punia along with the leader in charge of the party’s affairs in Uttarakhand, Devendra Yadav, only held unofficial meetings with some party seniors and tried to convince them to forget their inner differences in the greater interest of the party and in view of the upcoming civic polls and the Lok Sabha polls. On Sunday, he held several meetings with the party’s senior leaders, office bearers and even with MLAs. Sources said that a large number of party leaders in the state had some or other complaint or grievance against the leader in charge of the party affairs, Devendra Yadav. It was for this reason, that Yadav who turned up at PCC Headquarters in the morning did not stay there for long, as he was probably asked to stay away from the meetings by Punia. Today, however, Yadav was present in several party meetings along with Punia.

Sources claimed that in view of the serious grievances against Devendra Yadav, the party high command may replace him with some other party leader but whether it will change the ground reality within the party and resolve the differences remains to be seen.

Now, Punia will submit his report on the factionalism and the ground situation within the party in Uttarakhand to the Party High Command. Some highly placed sources in Congress claimed that not much can be expected to change as a result of Punia’s visit. According to them, with the grip of Central High Command over the party getting somewhat weaker, the observers are not in a position to enforce discipline among the party leaders and the cadres.

On the second day, today, Punia held separate talks with the state presidents of various cells, departments and ancillary organisations of the PCC, all party spokespersons and senior Congress leaders at the State Congress headquarters. Punia stressed on the need for unity within the party and, in his interaction at the end of his tour with the media, claimed that the Congress party is united in Uttarakhand and all the leaders and workers of the party are working to take the programmes of the organisation to the masses and exposing the dictatorial and anti-democratic face of the government.

On this occasion, the state in-charge Devendra Yadav said that the Congress workers should resolutely fight against the oppression of the government. He said that the Congress party is fighting from road to house to save democracy and will continue to do so. He claimed that the constitution given by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar is being disrespected, further adding that the reins of the country are in the hands of communal forces.

It may be recalled that Senior AICC leader PL Punia, who came as an observer to tackle infighting in the state Congress, first spoke to the district and Mahangar presidents one by one in a closed room on Sunday and then one-to-one to the MLAs. During this, Punia kept distance from the media. It was after a long time at the PCC Headquarters that so many senior party leaders were seen together on Sunday.  On his arrival, Leader of the Opposition Yashpal Arya, State President Karan Mahra and all the leaders welcomed him with bouquets at the PCC Headquarters. State in-charge Devendra Yadav was also with him, but he left after some time after having a separate meeting with the Leader of the Opposition Yashpal Arya.

Punia occupied a room soon after reaching the party office where district party chiefs and Mahanagar chiefs were called one by one. Sources claimed that Punia gave a patient hearing to everyone. It so happened that several party leaders including the Chakrata MLA Pritam Singh had serious grievances against Yadav. On his part, Punia spent more time with Pritam Singh who is among the most vocal of the dissident leaders. This discussion between the two leaders took place in a closed room where no one else was present. It is learnt that Punia assured Singh of some action on his grievances but asked him to maintain the discipline and not be outspoken in respect of his differences. When Pritam Singh came out of the party offices after his meetings, he chose not to speak to the media.

In addition to listening to the grievances of the party leaders, Punia also sought feedback regarding the preparations of the party regarding the upcoming civic polls and coming general elections. He also issued necessary instructions and conveyed to the party leaders the message of the party high command in this respect. Sources claimed that no organisational change is expected as a result of this interaction Punia had with the party leaders since any such change will result in allegations of the party high command becoming a victim of blackmail by one faction or appeasement of the one faction while ignoring the claims of those who don’t have any grievances with the party high command. However, there is a strong likelihood of some guidelines being issued by the party high command asking everyone to maintain discipline and forget personal differences with each other.

It may further be pertinent to point out here that before Punia had left his room at Hotel Madhuban for the PCC office, veteran party leader Harish Rawat called on him and held a long meeting with him at the hotel. Speaking to the media persons at the hotel, Rawat expressed hope that party leaders will be able to forget their differences and resolve them amicably soon in the greater interest of the party. Sources claimed that Punia also wanted to speak to another dissident party leader and Kichha MLA Tilak Raj Behad but he could not reach Dehradun due to health reasons.