Two senior Congress leaders of Punjab -- Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo -- have written to the Governor accusing their own government of being hand-in-glove with the state's liquor mafia. The letter is a sharp reflection of the infighting within the Congress in one of the few states it currently rules.
In their letter to Governor VP Singh Badnore, the two Rajya Sabha members alleges a failure of the state's "administrative machinery" which, they say, they have already flagged to the Chief Minister.
Smuggling of liquor during the lockdown, they said, cost the state Rs 2,700 crore. Besides, illegal distillaries have mushroomed across the state. Two of them were detected at Rajpura and Ghanaur, which were part of Patiala, the home district of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the parliamentary constituency of his wife.
"Smuggling, functioning of illegal distillaries, production and circulation of spurious liquor cannot be done without the active connivance of officers if the Excise and Taxation Department as well as the police department," their letter read. In the letter, they also pointed out that it is the Chief Minister who handles the Excise department as well as the crucial home ministry, which controls law and order.
108 people have died in across three districts of the state since last week after drinking hooch. The Congress government led by Amarinder Singh has since been under repeated attacks by the opposition BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party. So far, 37 people have been arrested in the case.
Industries & Commerce minister Sunder Sham Arora further said this is not the time to derive political mileage. The occasion demands that all the political parties come together on a single platform and present a united front.
Mr Bajwa has been at odds with Amainder Singh since he replaced the former as the chief of the party's state unit. The other signatory of the letter, Shamsher Singh Dullo, is also a former president of the state Congress.
The rift in Punjab Congress comes as the party is struggling to retain its Ashok Gehlot-led government in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath government collapsed in March after Jyotiraditya Scindia crossed over to the BJP with 22 loyalist MLAs.
Sachin Pilot, whose rebellion trigged the turmoil in Rajasthan, has said the dissidence is internal and he will not join the BJP.