Debating India

Unity a mirage in Chandigarh Congress

Monday 8 August 2005

Special Correspondent

Bansal faction unwilling to make peace with Bahl camp; boycotts installation ceremony of new chief

CHANDIGARH: The re-appointment of B.B. Bahl as the president of the faction-ridden Chandigarh unit of the Congress by the party High Command earlier this week has evoked mixed response. Even though the party High Command had tried to broker a truce between the factions owing allegiance to Mr.Bahl and the local MP, Pawan Kumar Bansal, supporters of the latter virtually "boycotted’’ the installation ceremony of the former at the local Congress office here on Friday. However, a large number of partymen, mostly grassroots workers, gathered at the Tribune Chowk to welcome Mr.Bahl who was returning from New Delhi after meeting senior Central party leaders. They accorded a rousing reception to the veteran party leader at the CTCC office in Sector 35 here.

According to highly-placed sources, all CTCC delegates, including those owing allegiance to Mr.Bansal, had been duly informed about the programme well in advance as Mr.Bahl wanted to start his fresh innings on a positive note of "unity’’ within the party. But not a single leader or delegate or Municipal Councillor belonging to the Bansal camp turned up, they added.

It may be recalled that a couple of years back, the factionalism in the Chandigarh unit of the Congress revolved round Mr.Bansal, the Haryana Excise and Taxation Minister, Venod Sharma, and the AICC Secretary, Manish Tewari. But on the eve of the 2004 Parliamentary election, the equations changed after Mr.Bansal and Mr.Bahl fell out over the issue of so-called expulsion of Devinder Singh Babla and his "unilateral’’ re-admission in the party fold.

Mr.Bahl stuck to his stand that Mr.Babla, an ex-protege of the former Union Minister,Harmohan Dhawan, had been formally expelled from the Congress for indulging in anti-party activities in 2001 and this could be revoked only by the High Command. However, Mr.Bansal is understood to have maintained that Mr.Babla had never been "expelled’’ even though the official records clearly indicate that the "expulsion ’’ had taken place with his `approval’.

Close supporters of Mr.Bansal had been trying till the very last to ensure that Mr.Bahl was not re-elected as CTCC chief. However, the High Command decided to put the mantle on Mr.Bahl given his track record and the fact that the Congress recorded massive wins in the 2001 Corporation and 2004 Parliamentary elections.

According to political observers, the High Command seems to have sent a clear message to the warring partymen to work under Mr.Bahl’s leadership but the "boycott’’ clearly indicates that these leaders are still not prepared to accept the "decision’’ of the Party supremo, Sonia Gandhi, who is understood to have given personal attention to resolve the crisis. A senior leader close to Mr.Bahl said that the High Command’s "verdict’’ to revoke the expulsion of Mr.Babla and take him as a CTCC delegate was "acceptable’’ to all workers of the party.

See online : The Hindu

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