In an embarrassing development for Congress, veteran Kamal Nath resigned as in-charge of Punjab after the Akalis and Aam Aadmi Party criticised his appointment in the context of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Nath wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi that no FIR or case was pending against him. "In my long career from general secretary to minister, there has never been any stigma to my name," he said. Party spokesman Ran deep Singh Surjewala said Nath's resignation had been accepted. The development is clearly related to the view of Punjab Congress members that Nath's appointment would harm Congress' prospects in a state where the 1984 anti-Sikh riots remain a sore point and overseas Khalistanis are using the issue to rake up fresh support.
The decision to name veterans Ghulam Nabi Azad and Nath was seen as a move to bring back the old guard, as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's plans to give the party a younger look and the prominence of leaders considered close to him suffered a setback with poll defeats in Assam, Kerala, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu In his letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Nath said he was hurt by allegations levelled in the context of the tragic riots. "This canard is...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," Nath said in his letter.
Saying political forces were raking up a controversy for vested interests, Nath said he was a practitioner of "Nehruvian politics". Expressing gratitude to Sonia for appointing him as general secretary in-charge of Punjab, the veteran party member wrote, "I wish the party to focus on the upcoming elections and highlight the issues of misgovernance, misery of farmers and youth, breakdown of law and order and rampant drug trade that caused untold misery to the people of Punjab."
In an attempt to reach out to farmers in Punjab ahead of next year's polls, Congress will organise "Coffee with Captain", an outreach programme for the farming community in which the party's CM face Amarinder Singh will touch upon the problems faced by the agricultural sector in the state. The strategy has been formulated by campaign strategist Prashant Kishor and his team. Interestingly, Narendra Modi's `Chai Pe Charcha', also with Kishor as strategist, formed one of the successful innovations of BJP's 2014 Lok Sabha campaign. Mahendra Singh