‘Hurt’ Kamal Nath resigns as Punjab poll in-charge

Rajat Kain

FILE: New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi talks with party leader Ahmed Patel as Vice President Rahul Gandhi look on, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, May 6, 2016. Photo - PTI

FILE: New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi talks with party leader Ahmed Patel as Vice President Rahul Gandhi look on, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, May 6, 2016.
Photo – PTI

Congress party is now battling the wits within. First, the appointment of senior leader Kamal Nath as in-charge of poll-bound Punjab attracted criticism from combined opposition – BJP, Akali Dal and AAP – over the allegations of his involvement in 1984 Delhi riots. And now, Nath — one of party’s proven war horse for the elections – has surrendered the charge.

What possibly could have wrecked Kamal Nath’s poise may be a section of his own party, both in Delhi and Punjab, not in tune with the ‘High Commands’ decision.

In his letter written to the party chief Sonia Gandhi, Kamal Nath requested that he be “relieved” of his charge in Punjab “to ensure that the attention is not diverted from the real issues facing Punjab.”

“I have been hurt by the developments of the past few days wherein an unnecessary controversy has been created around the tragic 1984 riots in New Delhi,” he wrote insisting there was not even any public statement, complaint or FIR against him till 2005 in the riots case and that he had been absolved subsequently by the Nanavati Commission set up by the previous NDA government.

“This canard is therefore nothing but a cheap political ploy to gain traction ahead of the elections…. Certain elements are raking up these issues now only for political gains,” he wrote in his letter to his party chief.

Kamal Nath’s resignation from the post of General Secretary in-charge of Punjab & Haryana was immediately accepted by Sonia Gandhi.

FILE: File photo of Pujab CM Prakash Singh Badal with his son and Dy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. Photo - PTI

FILE: File photo of Pujab CM Prakash Singh Badal with his son and Dy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Photo – PTI

“Kamal Nath has tendered his resignation from the responsibilities assigned to him in AICC. On his request, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has accepted his resignation,” party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.

Earlier, Chief Minister of Punjab and the chieftain of ruling Akali Dal had strongly criticised Congress party’s move to appoint Kamal Nath as in-charge of the state even terming it “unbelievable brazen act of insensitivity towards Sikhs”.

“I am shocked that the Congress high command is going to these heights to rub salt into Sikh wounds while at the same time enacting the drama of putting up a show of prime ministerial repentance over its sins,” Badal had further said.

Surprisingly, Congress leader from the state and former Union minister MS Gill too had castigated his own party’s move, saying “Truth is truth you cannot hide it. And this selection of Kamal Nath is like rubbing salt on wounds.”

69-year-old Kamal Nath was on Monday entrusted with the affairs of Punjab and Haryana, where the party is facing square battle, both inside and outside.

It got a jolt in Haryana biennial elections last week where the votes of its 14 MLAs were declared invalid, thus paving way for BJP-backed candidate to defeat RK Anand, the INLD candidate it backed.

In Punjab, the party has been out of power since the spring of 2007 and is now facing stiff challenge from not just the Alaki-BJP combine but also from Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP. Among his first priorities may be setting Congress party’s house in order which has looked not totally water-tight even after surviving a possible crack.