- Congress lawmakers in Bengal pledge allegiance to Gandhis, party
- Will not criticize party decisions publicly, says written statement
- Each Congress lawmaker in Bengal signs statement
The declaration - on a stamp paper to denote gravitas and legality - includes eschewing any "anti-party activity" and public criticism of a Congress decision or policy.
Cue vast ridicule. "Party legislators are being treated as bonded labour, instead of respected members," said BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh. "Is the Congress so unsure of itself that it has to demand affidavits from its legislators?" wrote Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress, which swept Bengal for the second time in a row.
The Congress in Delhi did not find fault with the "loyalty bond". No instructions were given by the "the high command" but the commitment makes sense given the BJP's current trend of trying to snatch Congress legislators in states like Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to destabilise the BJP governments there, said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The written statement of allegiance was "a spontaneous expression" said Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress chief in Bengal. He denied it as an attempt to prevent second-guessing the Gandhis after the party's big wipe-out in state elections, which included being removed from power in Kerala and Assam. Bengal legislators said they unanimously agreed to sign the statement, barring a couple of people who had already left the meeting where the decision was taken.
The Gandhis said after last week's battering in the elections that they will introspect and work on improving the party. In plain speak, a rarity for the Congress, senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor have urged an overhaul, though none have said that the Gandhis should be held accountable for the latest in a series of losses that began with the national election in 2014.
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