“Chaiwallah Won’t Have Voter Roll”: Punjab Leader Partap Bajwa Amid Congress Poll Row


Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in Punjab, speaking in Chandigarh.


On the growing demand within the Congress to make its organisation voter rolls public, senior party leader from Punjab, Partap Singh Bajwa, today told his colleagues to simply to go to the party office and collect them if they are in the contest. “It’s 24, Akbar Road, Delhi. They know it too,” he said, without naming anyone, when asked about Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and others’ statements.

“The voter rolls for an internal election aren’t public property. Do you think a chaiwallah (tea-seller) or someone selling golgappe will provide you with the electoral rolls?” Mr Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, told NDTV, “Those who are contesting can get them.”

“Let me tell you this also… None of these guys who are asking for the rolls are going to contest,” he said, referring to the presidential polls scheduled for next month. 

Shashi Tharoor is reported to be considering a run for the post, though. 

Mr Tharoor and Mr Tewari, both former union ministers, were among the 23 leaders who wrote to interim chief Sonia Gandhi seeking “inclusive leadership”. Some of the ‘G-23’ have since left the party, the latest being Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The party remains in a fix because Rahul Gandhi has so far refused to contest for the post, which is held as an interim arrangement by his mother ever since he quit after the 2019 loss. He is facing persistent attacks from party leaders who’ve quit, such as Mr Azad, as well as those who haven’t but demand reforms, such as Anand Sharma. 

Sonia Gandhi has already opted out of any race, as son Rahul and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have taken on more active roles over the years. There’s been some buzz that Priyanka Gandhi may be asked to contest.

But the family is keen on a non-Gandhi, sources have said. 

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot may be their choice — a move that could also end a festering row in the state, giving Sachin Pilot the job that he’s long desired.

“There needs to be a change within the party, irrespective of whether I contest or not,” Mr Tharoor has said. On Mr Tewari’s demand to make voter details public, he said “Nothing wrong in that… Everyone should know who can nominate and who can vote.”

The party has said 900 delegates from across the country will vote in the elections. 

Party MP Karti Chidambaram, son of former union minister P Chidambaram, has called this “an ad-hoc electoral college” which, he says, “is “meaningless”.

Manish Tewari, who is Lok Sabha member from Punjab’s Anandpur Sahib segment, even tagged party veteran Madhusudan Mistry on Twitter, asking for the rolls to be put up on the party website.

But Mr Mistry, who heads the party’s central election body, has said state units have the detail anyway. “Those who want to file a nomination… we will give the same to them. It is not for the general public. It is an organisational election,” he has said. “We have nothing to hide. But we can’t make it public. This has never been done.”

Partap Bajwa, who’s been an MP too, sees “a plan to defame the Congress” in the demands for the poll rolls to be made public. “These statements are being given on behalf of those want such statements to be made,” he said, “These people are trying to cut the root of the tree on whose branch they are sitting.”


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