Ahead of the February 14 assembly polls, ruling Congress got a jolt as senior party leader and former Punjab Minister Joginder Singh Mann on Friday quit, snapping his 50-year-old ties with the party.
The leader from the Scheduled Caste community was miffed over “no action” against perpetrators of the alleged multi-crore post-matric SC scholarship scam and non-grant of district status to Phagwara. He resigned from the party as Chairman of the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation.
Sources said that Mann is likely to join the Aam Aadmi Party.
In a letter to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi, the three-time ex-MLA from Phagwara, who remained a minister in Cabinets including those of Beant Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Amarinder Singh, said that he had a dream that he would die as a Congressman. “But with Congress patronising guilty of the post matric scholarship scheme, my conscience doesn’t allow me to stay here,” he said. “The maharajas, landlords, money bags and opportunist leaders like Capt Amarinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu and others came in the party for sake of vested political interests due to which the party had drifted from its core values and focus shifted merely to contest the polls and grab power,” he alleged.
“It is not the same party whose leader late Indira Gandhi rode atop an elephant, as no other vehicle was available in bad weather, to mourn death of members of SC community who were killed in Belchi (Bihar) but today leaders of Congress leaders are drenched with blood of SC students whose career have been ruined due to post matric scholarship scam” he added.
The SC scholarship scam had surfaced in 2020 following a report by the then additional chief secretary, discovering alleged misappropriation of Rs 55.71 crore. The report had also questioned the role of the then Social Justice Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot in allegedly shielding those involved in the scam.
Citing another reason for quitting the party, Mann said residents of Phagwara have to travel around 40 km to Kapurthala for their administrative works done at the district headquarters. He said he had been repeatedly flagging the issue of giving district status to Phagwara from day one before the then CM Amarinder Singh and now before Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. “But instead of paying any heed towards it they have blatantly ignored this long pending demand of Phagwara residents thereby humiliating their sentiments and aspirations,” he alleged.
Mann also charged that in the last few years “the party has been giving step motherly treatment to Valmiki/Mazhbi Sikh community and the party has always used the community merely as a vote bank without even bothering to ensure its well being and give due representation to it”.