Punjab’s Congress unit has a mountain of problems to deal with. Intense factionalism, resentment against Captain Amarinder Singh’s leadership, corruption, misgovernance and a variety of other issues plague the party’s prospects of retaining power in the state. It was with much hope that the Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh had appointed seasoned number cruncher Prashant Kishor as his principal adviser. With elections in the state slated for early next year, Prashant Kishor was to aid the Congress in winning Punjab for a second consecutive term. In Punjab, however, Kishor is facing a rather unique and previously unheard-of challenge.
Anonymous individuals are impersonating Prashant Kishor. They are stoking discontent among the Congress’ state ranks with respect to Captain Amarinder Singh’s leadership. These unknown caller(s), speaking as Prashant Kishor, have been reportedly encouraging the politicians to make public statements against the Punjab Chief Minister and to criticise his leadership. The Punjab Police have registered a criminal case against unknown persons for impersonating Kishor and also duping Congress leaders of large sums of money.
According to the Indian Express, the gang duped Congressmen of Rs 5 crore at least. Last month too, the gang was able to fool at least 30 to 40 Congress leaders from Ludhiana, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Sangrur. That such a significant number of Congress leaders got fleeced by a gang of impersonators speaks volumes about the disloyalty which the state unit of the party harbours for Captain Amarinder Singh.
Last month, a gang of Kishor impersonators was arrested by Punjab Police. “The gang-members were caught while trying to dupe MLA Kuldeep Singh Vaid. He got suspicious when the impersonator asked for a gift to submit a survey report in his favour. The police laid a trap and two men were arrested from Jalandhar on May 11 and 13, respectively,” police sources were quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Kuldeep Singh Vaid, the MLA who was about to be duped by the gang said the impersonator demanded Rs 10 lakh from him as a gift for two MLAs from other states who would conduct a survey and submit a report in Vaid’s favour to make sure that he got a ticket for next year’s elections. Daman Thind Bajwa, another Congress leader from Sangrur said the impersonators demanded Rs 7 lakh from her in exchange of the promise that she would definitely get a ticket.
While the gang which was busted last month included the likes of Gaurav Sharma, Rakesh Kumar Bhasin and Rajat Kumar Raja. The latest group of impersonators, however, have not been identified yet. A criminal case under sections 416, 419, 420, 109, 120-B of the IPC and section 66-D of the IT Act 2000 has been registered at PS Division no. 6, Commissionerate of Police, Ludhiana against the unknown callers.
The new set of persons impersonating Prashant Kishor have been telling Congress leaders that their case will be taken up with the party’s high command if the leaders follow Kishor’s (the impersonators’) advice.
Reported by TFI, since the appointment of Prashant Kishor as the principal adviser to the CM, Congress party leaders have been disgruntled. Sensing the situation was spiralling out of control, Amarinder Singh had to come out to douse it and claim that Kishor will have no role to play in ticket distribution. The chief minister had appointed Kishor as his principal adviser in March this year.
As reported previously by TFI, Kishor was hired on a token honorarium of Rs 1 per month as salary for his services to CM Amarinder. But the devil is in the details and according to official government documents, Kishor is entitled to a fully-furnished government residence and camp office, executive class travel, official vehicle, medical facilities and secretarial staff as admissible to a cabinet minister in Punjab. Amarinder’s principal adviser has also been allowed an expenditure of up to Rs 5,000 per month on hospitality.
The gang of Prashant Kishor’s impersonators have brought to light the glaring fault lines in the Punjab Congress. Needless to say, with less than a year to go for the assembly elections – the Congress in Punjab has been exposed as a divided house, disgruntled with the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh.