Congress Chooses "Coffee" Over "Lassi" in Punjab
NEW DELHI: “Desi Lassi” Versus “Western Coffee” had Congress stalwarts Amarinder Singh and Jagmeet Singh Brar at loggerheads with public articles in the media. Brar has lost the face-off with the Congress top brass expelling him from the party, while reposing trust in the Captain.
The ‘coffee with youth’ idea was part of supposed election whiz kid of Gujarat and Bihar fame, Prashant Kishore, who has recently been hired by Amarinder Singh for an image make-over. This led to some tittering within the Congress party, as coffee is not exactly a drink associated with Punjab. Brar voiced it with a ‘my desi lassi’ remark against the Captains western notions leading to a counter from Singh, and finally a decision to remove Brar from the party.
Singh was seen as the individual who could turn the fortunes of the Congress around in Punjab. After some hesitation, the party finally agreed to repose trust in him to lead the party into the forthcoming Assembly elections. However, the ground seems to have slipped under the Maharaja of Patiala’s feet, with the Congress in popular perception falling to third place. The Akali Dal seems to have improved slightly to get to second place, and while opinions on this vary, there are not two views that currently the Aam Aadmi party is on top. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has launched his election campaign in the state, with AAP having stepped up its activities for about a year now.
The Congress party is having a rough time. As only the other day it expelled a former deputy speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Bir Devinder Singh. The constant bickering and rebellion have had effect --former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar was on Monday expelled from the Congress by its national general secretary Shakeel Ahmad. This comes close on the heels of the party expelling Bir Devinder Singh, a former deputy speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. On this Brar had tweeted, Reacting to the expulsion, rebel Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar tweeted, “Bir Devinder’s expulsion from the party is not in good taste, and smacks of personal vendetta and highhandedness by Amarinder.”
Singh has been advised by Prashant Kishore to drop the ceremonial baggage of the ‘maharaja’ and be referred to as simply ‘captain.’ Singh has been accused of being inaccessible, arrogant, and unable to communicate with the masses. He has also not been campaigning, according to Congress leaders within, as extensively as expected, a point that was being made by Brar as well.
However, left with no real choice now the Congress top brass in Delhi have decided to go along with Singh who according to sources is seen as the “most credible” leader in the party. Instead the party decided to respond positively to the demand for Brar’s expulsion with Singh supporters maintaining that he had been working against the party. The Brar lobby claims that he was only critical of Singh for his non-performance and not of the party. Brar had been suspended in 2014 when he had tried to push the Congress into an honest introspection of its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. He had suggested then that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi go on a sabbatical to resolve this issue. Sonia Gandhi revoked his suspension last August, but only to regret it clearly as the incorrigible leader has publicly crossed swords with the Captain in the run up to the crucial Assembly polls. His angst also stems from the fact that he was passed over for the post of Congress Punjab chief in 2013, and this time around dropped in favour of Singh.
What ensured the expulsion was his decision to counter Singh at Ludhiana where just a day before the latter had interacted with the youth in a “Coffee with the Captain” program. Brar said that he would go on a ‘jeera lassi tour with the Punjabi’s” instead. He said he had asked the party leadership to form a 15 member advisory committee before the Punjab elections. And was quoted in the media as saying, “I ask for neither election ticket nor any post in the party but only that we fight united.”
Singh meanwhile is following Prashant Kishore’s advice to the letter. Kishore had handled the publicity blitz for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha elections. He had shifted subsequently to handle the same for Bihar Chief Minister in the Assembly polls last year. He has been hired by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi now, and more specifically by Amarinder Singh for his own personal campaign in Punjab. The ‘coffee with the Captain’ initiative, however, does not seem to have had a resonance in the lassi drinking state even though Brar has paid a price for his criticism.