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Bhattal told to make peace with Amarinder

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | January 05, 2004 20:56 IST

A four-member Congress panel led by Pranab Mukherjee on Monday met the Punjab dissidents spearheaded by  former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Bhattal has been demanding the removal Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for what she describes as his 'autocratic style of functioning.'

"The four-member panel has met them [the Punjab dissidents] and we are more than hopeful that an amicable solution will emerge," party spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters.

Congress sources later told rediff.com that the ' peace formula' involves diluting the charges against Bhattal in a corruption case against her.

The sources said with the party yet to recover from the shocking defeats in the recent assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the last thing the high command wants is trouble in another state where it is in power.

And Punjab is not the only state where factionalism is eating into the party's vitals. Similar problems exist in Kerala, where Chief Minister A K Antony is facing a challenge from veteran leader K Karunakaran, and Gujarat, where Amarsinh Choudhary has raised the banner of revolt against the Pradesh Congress Committee chief Shankarsinh Vaghela.

"The high command has warned the Punjab dissidents that they will not be permitted to aggravate matters and that they should try to resolve their differences in the most amicable manner," a senior All India Congress Committee leader said.

Bhattal, meanwhile, has gone on record saying she would go by the high command's diktat.

The dissidents in Kerala and Gujarat have also been told to exercise restraint as the party prepares to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the general elections.

Sharma said the party's highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee, will meet on January 7 to formulate the strategy for the Lok Sabha polls.

He, however, refused to say whether matters like the party's revamp following its defeat  in assembly polls would also be taken up.


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