Sunil Jakhar, senior Congress leader and former chief of its Punjab unit, quit the party today, weeks after he was issued a showcause notice by the leadership over his criticism of former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi.
“Goodbye and good luck, Congress,” Mr Jakhar said in a Facebook live video after scathing criticism of former party colleagues who led the action against him.
His remarks come at a time when the Congress leadership is meeting in Udaipur in a desperate attempt to put its house in order to take on the BJP.
Last month, the Congress’ disciplinary panel had recommended that Mr Jakhar be suspended from the party for two years and removed from all posts.
The five-member Committee is chaired by senior party leader AK Antony. The meeting on what action should be taken against Mr Jakhar was attended by members Tariq Anwar, JP Aggarwal and G Parameswar, besides Mr Antony.
Ambika Soni, seen as Mr Jakhar’s bete noire, was not present during the meeting.
The former Punjab Congress chief had criticised former Chief Minister Channi and termed him a liability for the party after it lost to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab.
Mr Jakhar had also been critical of the party leadership for picking Mr Channi as Chief Ministerial candidate for the elections, and had hit out at Ms Soni for supposedly scuttling his chances of being picked as Chief Minister after Amarinder Singh’s ouster.
Amid the crisis in Punjab Congress after Amarinder Singh’s resignation in September, Ms Soni had said she turned down an offer for the Chief Minister post and told the leadership that only a Sikh should be chosen for the job.
Mr Jakhar was being considered a front runner for the top post and Ms Soni’s remark supposedly ruined his prospects.
Hitting out at her, Mr Jakhar said the remark spoiled the Congress’s chances in the Assembly polls.
“Ambika Soni’s comments spoiled our chances in polls. Her comments defamed Sikhs and the Hindus of Punjab,” he said. Addressing Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he added, “I urge you (Sonia Gandhi) to ask her (Soni) if she knows what Sikhism is,” he added, accusing her of trying to create a rift in Hindu-Sikh brotherhood.
Targeting Ms Soni again, the estranged Congress leader said she had jumped ship in 1977. “She used to work with Sanjay Gandhi ji and was close to Indira Gandhi ji, but in 1977, she jumped ship and contested from Chandigarh against the Congress candidate,” he said.
“And see who has issued a showcause notice to me, Tariq Anwar, a man who switched to the NCP demanding that a woman of foreign origin can’t be the PM,” Mr Jakhar added.
Taking a swipe at the Congress’ brainstorming session, he said it is nothing more than fulfilling a “formality”. “The party is facing an existential crisis and we are behaving as if the country’s responsibility is on our shoulders. As they say, there are many ideas to decorate the house, but first decide how to save it.”
Speaking about the Punjab election results, he said voters did not vote on religious and caste lines but as Punjabis hoping for a better future. He congratulated the voters of the state for not falling for the “poisonous seeds sown” by Congress leaders.
“I would request Sonia Gandhi, do politics across the country, but spare Punjab, it has seen very dark days. Punjab is one,” he said.
“You did not sever ties with me, you broke my heart, you issued a notice, were you all ashamed to talk to me? I would have given all the answers,” he added.
He said the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi need to identify friends and foes. “You fired a missile of notice at me after listening to these sycophants. The action against me shows what is ailing the Congress party. It was recommended that I be removed from all posts, what posts did I have anyway. If you cannot identify friends or foes, at least identify assets and liabilities,” he said.
Responding to Mr Jakhar’s remarks, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tweeted that the party should not lose him. “The congress should not loose #sunilkjakhar …. Is an asset worth his weight in gold …. Any differences can be resolved on the table,” he tweeted.