Supporters from two factions of the Congress party got into a brawl in Himachal Pradesh as soon as the new state president, Kuldeep Singh Rathore assumed office in Shimla.
It was reported that the workers exchanged blows and flung chairs at each other at the Himachal Pradesh Congress headquarters in the presence of Virbhadra Singh, Rathore, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, AICC office-bearer Rajni Patil and some party MLAs. Eyewitnesses claimed that at least two workers were injured in the scuffle.
The clash allegedly took place between the supporters of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and outgoing state unit president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.
The internal dissent between the state’s party unit laid bare when both Virbhadra Singh and Sukhu have made veiled attacks against each other at meetings and through press statements after the party announced the appointment of a new state president.
Though no arrests had been made till late evening, five Congress workers were booked on the complaint of one of the injured worker, Rajeev Rana, police said. The FIR listed sections 323, 506, 147, 148 of the Indian Penal Code, relating to rioting, criminal intimidation and causing injury.
Trouble began when two separate groups of workers owing their loyalties to Virbhadra Singh and Sukhwinder Singh, respectively, started indulging in provocative sloganeering to demonstrate their respective strengths. The loyalists of rival factions hurled abuses at each other even as senior leaders on the dais made efforts to pacify them.
Kuldeep Rathore, the new Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president, while speaking to reporters expressed his disapproval and regret about the incident, “What happened at Congress Bhawan should not have happened. Appropriate action will be taken against those involved after identifying them,” he said.
At the public meeting earlier, Rajini Patil, the Himachal Pradesh in-charge at the All India Congress Committee and Kuldeep Rathore, the new Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president had warned that indiscipline would not be tolerated in the party.
“No party leader or worker should think that the party would not take action against them if they continue to go to the media, breaching party discipline,” Patil had said, without naming anyone.
Though the outgoing state unit president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu did not attend the public meeting, Rathore praised the outgoing president and said that Sukhu had supported his appointment.
He also thanked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his elevation and claimed the Congress would win all four parliamentary seats in the state.