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Warning to dissenters? Why Congress expelled ex-MLA after he called new Punjab chief ‘corrupt’

Surjit Dhiman, considered to be close to Sidhu, removed over ‘anti-party activities’ day after he lashed out at Amarinder Raja Warring, calling him ‘novice’, ‘opportunist’.

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New Delhi: Former MLA Surjit Dhiman’s expulsion from the Congress Sunday for “anti-party activities” is apparently an attempt by the high command to warn dissenters, ThePrint has learnt.

Dhiman was expelled a day after he questioned the appointment of Amarinder Singh Raja Warring as the new Punjab Congress president.

While All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Punjab and Chandigarh Harish Chaudhary issued the expulsion order stating that indiscipline would not be tolerated at any cost, sources in the Congress said the move was a message to any dissenters who may be thinking of speaking out against the recent appointments, especially with the party’s organisational elections scheduled to begin in June. 

The elections will culminate in the appointment of a new national Congress president. At present, Sonia Gandhi is heading the party as interim chief.

Dhiman, considered a close aide of Warring’s predecessor Navjot Singh Sidhu, had lashed out at the former state transport minister hours after he was named the new Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Saturday.

Speaking to reporters Saturday night, Dhiman had accused Warring of being a “novice” and an “opportunist”. He had also claimed that Warring faced allegations of corruption when he was president of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), the party’s youth wing.

Dhiman had further alleged that Sidhu was not given a second term as PPCC chief due to “vested interests”.

Dhiman’s explusion comes at a time when the Punjab Congress has seen months of infighting, especially among its top leaders, which is seen as one of the reasons for the party’s stunning defeat in the recently held assembly elections, due to which it was ousted from power in the state by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Meanwhile, Warring and the other newly-appointed office bearers of Punjab Congress met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at his residence in Delhi Monday.

The new appointees are former food minister and two-time MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who has been named the new PPCC working president, Qadian MLA Partap Singh Bajwa, who has been appointed the Congress’ Legislative Party (CLP) leader in the Punjab assembly, and Chabbewal MLA Dr Raj Kumar, who is the new deputy CLP leader.

Also Read: We are all responsible, not just you, Congress leaders to Sonia after party’s Assembly rout

‘Most corrupt’, says Dhiman

Before Warring’s appointment as PPCC chief, Sidhu held multiple meetings with state Congress leaders in order to get himself a second term, sources told ThePrint. 

The former Punjab Congress chief and his counterparts in the four other states (Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur) that went to polls earlier this year were asked to step down after the Congress was defeated in all five states.

Warring, 44, was appointed almost a month after Sidhu resigned. Considered close to party leader Rahul Gandhi, Warring is expected to now face the tough task of reining in the factions within the Punjab Congress.

Sidhu and his supporters, including Dhiman, are one such faction.

“We cannot say he is a better leader. He is the most corrupt one. He has been accused of selling (election) tickets in the states while heading the Youth Congress. We cannot hope for anything from such leaders. He is a novice and opportunist,” Dhiman reportedly said.

“The present Congress chief is the most corrupt and the decision to appoint him is wrong. This decision is not in favour of, but against Punjab. The Congress will not be able to come out of this shock for a long time.” 

The ex-MLA, while praising Sidhu, alleged: “Raja Warring fell at the feet of the Badals and compromised with them.”

On Sunday, leaders from the Sidhu camp had met him at his residence in Amritsar. These included former Batala MLA Ashwani Sekhri, as well as former Jandiala MLA and ex-PPCC working president Sukhwinder Singh Danny.

 (Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: Punjab will not submit to Modi govt’s push for prepaid digital power meters. Here’s why


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