Appointed as Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab, he was under fire on alleged role in anti-Sikh riots.
New Delhi : In a strategic move to ensure that the focus does not revert to the 1984-anti-Sikh riots, former union minister Kamalnath, who was appointed as general secretary in-charge of Punjab and Haryana last Sunday, has requested party president Sonia Gandhi to relieve him as general secretary in-charge of Punjab. He told this correspondent that the Congress president had accepted this request.
His move comes after the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party criticised Congress for appointing Nath as its general secretary in-charge of Punjab, reviving allegations that he was involved in Delhi’s anti-Sikh riots after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984. The appointment was described as the biggest insult to the Sikhs.
Initially, the Congress party defended Nath, and the same rationale has been reproduced by him in his letter to Gandhi, wherein he has asserted that for 21 years there was no allegation against him regarding the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and it was only after 2005 that the Nanavati Commission made a reference to his presence in the context of an incident.
“But even when the report was discussed in the Lok Sabha neither the then leader of opposition L K Advani nor the SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal made any reference to me,” he has written.
Claiming complete innocence in the matter, Nath has said in his letter to Gandhi that he is requesting to be relieved only to ensure that the focus does not shift to these ‘baseless allegations against him’ and the elections are fought on the issues of utter misgovernance, failure of law and order and the rampant drug trade in the state.
Nath, who has the record of winning nine Lok Sabha elections from his pocket borough Chhindwara, was appointed to steer the party’s campaign in the state of Punjab a day before Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi landed in the state and attacked the Akali Dal-BJP government over the growing problem of drug abuse, highlighted recently by the controversy over the censorship of the Bollywood film “Udta Punjab“, which is based on the subject.
The Congress sees a chance to make a comeback in Punjab after 10 years of Akali rule and is using the drug menace at the core of its election campaign in the state. So is the Aam Aadmi Party, which has turned the Punjab elections, traditionally a direct fight between the Congress and the Akali Dal, into a three-sided contest.