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Why former Punjab leader Sunil Jakhar was removed from all Congress positions

Congress disciplinary action against Sunil Jakhar came for his alleged anti-Dalit remarks against former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi

Congress’ Sunil Jakhar has spoken out against his criticism of former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi. PTI

Aaj, sar kalam honge unke jinme abhi zameer baaki hai. (Today those who have a conscience will be beheaded). (My apologies to Javed Akhtar Saheb),” Sunil Jakhar wrote on Twitter yesterday, the same day Congress decided to remove him from all party posts for alleged anti-party activities.

The decision to remove Jakhar, the former Punjab unit chief, was taken by the Congress Disciplinary Committee chaired by party veteran AK Antony.

The committee also decided to remove Kerala leader KV Thomas from all party posts and suspend five of its MPs in Meghalaya.

Here is a look back at what happened and why Sunil Jakhar was removed from his post in the party.

Jakhar’s accusations against Charanjit Singh Channi

The action against Jakhar follows a written complaint by the AICC in charge of Punjab, Harish Chaudhary, to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, calling attention to some of his statements.

The ex-Punjab unit chief made several derogatory comments against Charanjit Singh Channi, the former chief minister, ahead of the assembly elections and even blamed Channi for the party’s poor performance in the State.

It all started after Captain Amarinder Singh quit the party and many thought Jakhar would be Congress’s choice for chief ministerial nominee. However, the party chose to go with Charanjit Singh Channi.

At the time, Jakhar targeted Congress leader Ambika Soni for allegedly opposing his candidacy, saying only a Sikh could become chief minister in Punjab.

Jakhar made his criticisms of Channi very clear, saying his “ordinary man” posturing was just eyewash. “He is a Jalimal (fake) and he has a fake degree of poverty and honesty. I had told Rahul Gandhi that I could not work with him and know who he was. There is nothing in him. He is nothing but his religious identity,” Jakhar said in an interview, according to a report by India Today.

Following the congressional beating in the state, Jakhar again took aim at Channi, saying the latter had been a “responsible” and added that his “greed had dragged him down”.

Jakhar’s comments came after reports surfaced that Ambika Soni, during the congressional working committee meeting, said that the state leadership did not support Channi even though the high command had created a national asset in the leader by appointing him chief minister.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came later in April when Jakhar made alleged anti-Dalit statements when he criticized Channi.

During an interview, Jakhar reportedly said, “I had warned not to give someone such importance…if you lift someone off the ground and put their head in…A leader even said that he was given so much that he can’t handle. It’s a question of status. The place for shoes is always on the floor. Put them there. Management needs to know where to keep everyone in their place.

The comments angered the Dalit community, as well as several of Jakhar’s colleagues in the party. Former Congressman Raj Kumar Verka and Aruna Chaudhary accused Jakhar of using “objectionable language” against Dalits and demanded that he be expelled from the party.

Reacting to this, Jakhar said that he has always respected every religion and community, as PTI reports, adding that his statement had been twisted and taken out of context.

Action against KV Thomas

The Congress Disciplinary Committee also recommended removing Kerala’s KV Thomas from all party posts had attended a seminar organized by CPI(M) on April 9 in the state against the will of the party and local leaders of the State had requested action against him.

The two senior leaders remained silent on the measures taken by the party against them. It remains to be seen what happens next, but it’s crucial that Congress is able to hold its flock together at this point as it witnesses an exodus of leaders and faces one election defeat after another.

With contributions from agencies

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