The Congress on Thursday served notices to 11 leaders in Uttar Pradesh, for “unnecessarily opposing" the party over the revamp of Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) in October.
The sharply-worded notice asked them to reply to the charges against them within 24 hours. A UP Congress press release said the notices were sent by the state unit’s disciplinary committee on the instructions of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh (West), and UPCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu.
They were served notices “in view of their acts of indiscipline,” it said. The 11 leaders are mostly old-timers, disgruntled after the reorganisation of the UPCC on October 7 when Lallu replaced Raj Babbar as the state unit's president.
They include an AICC member, former ministers, a district unit chief and one-time MLAs. "It has come to the notice of the disciplinary committee through newspapers that you have been continuously and unnecessarily opposing the AICC decisions concerning the UPCC publicly by holding meetings,” the notices said.
“Through these meetings and statements in the media, the image of the Congress party has been tarnished. This was not expected from senior leaders like you,” they added.
“This behaviour of yours is against the policies and ideas of the party .These actions come under the ambit of indiscipline. You have been given 24 hours time to give your clarification as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against you," they said.
Earlier, All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Dhiraj Gurjar told PTI in New Delhi that the party will take action if there is indiscipline, whatever the seniority of the Congress member.
The move comes after the absence of several party veterans from two recent meetings called by the UPCC chief Ajay Kumar Lallu in Lucknow. Instead, the disgruntled veterans have been holding their own meetings. They had also planned to meet party president Sonia Gandhi as a delegation to voice their grievances.
Those served notices include former MP Santosh Singh, former MLC Siraj Mehdi, former ministers Ram Krishna Dwivedi and Satyadev Tripathi and AICC member Rajendra Singh Solanki.
Former MLAs Bhudhar Narayan Mishra, Hafiz Mohammed Umar, Vinod Chaudhari and Nek Chand Pande, former Youth Congress leader Swayam Prakash Goswami and Gorakhpur unit president Sanjiv Singh are also on the list.
The veterans felt sidelined when the new UPCC) was formed by party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Some disgruntled leaders met at Siraj Mehdi’s home in the first week of November.
On November 14, they organised their separate programme to pay tributes to former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, instead of attending the one organised at the UPCC headquarters.
Several old-timers kept away from a meeting Wednesday of former MLAs, MLCs and MPs called by Lallu in Lucknow to discuss ways to revamp the party, which took a severe beating in the last parliamentary elections.
At an earlier meeting, 75 district unit presidents were invited but only 17 turned up, he claimed. "I have no fight with anyone and have been serving in the party since the past 30 to 40 years,” Siraj Mehdi, who now faces disciplinary action, said earlier on Thursday.
“In the backdrop of what we are getting to hear, we only want that our role in the party be defined," he told PTI. Mehdi had resigned from the membership of AICC and sent an emotional letter to Sonia Gandhi when the state unit was revamped by Priyanka Gandhi, apparently to give it a younger look.
He had complained that the new UPCC gave no representation to the Shia community while claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party governments at the Centre and in UP had nominated Shias in key positions.
The Congress had propped young leaders in the new UPCC, moving old warhorses like Pramod Tiwari, P L Punia and R P N Singh to an advisory council.
"There are senior leaders above 60 years in the central unit who have been working relentlessly for the party. If there is any constraint on age, it should be there also. Many in the new team are not even known to us," another senior leader said.
The revamped state unit has four vice presidents, 12 general secretaries and 24 secretaries. The team was trimmed to 67 office bearers from an unwieldy 500 earlier.
Lallu had earlier said, “The Congress is like a joint family and difference of opinion is natural. We have democracy in the organisation.”