The Congress on Monday set the ball rolling for the change of guard in states. Punjab was not in the list of states that got new party chiefs as any announcement to this effect is likely only after the party takes important stakeholders into confidence, including former chief minister and party's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh.
Attending to his ailing mother, Amarinder is in Patiala since the past four days and will reach New Delhi on Tuesday to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Sources said other than seeking Amarinder's views on the appointment of the new Punjab Congress chief, Sonia would also define a role for him in the state. Amarinder may be offered to chair the campaign committee for the 2017 assembly polls in the state.
Though former minister and MLA Lal Singh is the frontrunner as a replacement to incumbent Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Partap Singh Bajwa, a final decision has been kept pending.
Meanwhile, the deferment of announcement of Bajwa's replacement and Amarinder's Tuesday meeting with Sonia triggered speculations in the Congress with the rival camp claiming that Amarinder may prefer himself to be appointed as the PPCC chief or would opt for Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar for the top post, while suggesting that Lal Singh take over the reins of the
When contacted, Amarinder welcomed the move to appoint a new PPCC chief and endorsed the name of Lal Singh. "I had only one stand that Bajwa should move out in the party's and state's interest.
Lal Singh has worked with me for long and I support his appointment. I had met Rahul Gandhi two weeks ago, but I still have to speak to the Congress president on the issue. I am ready to take up whichever role Sonia gives me," he told HT.
Though Lal Singh enjoys Amarinder's trust as an efficient organisational man, the Amarinder camp wants a clear message to go to the state leaders and cadres about the latter being the popular face for the party during the state elections.
Amarinder too did not rule out the possibility of the campaign committee being announced way ahead of the state polls. "It's a possibility that the campaign committee is announced soon. Even during the 2009 elections, it was announced six months ahead of the polls," he said.
Meanwhile, Bajwa reached Delhi on Monday amid reports of his removal. Though he wants to have a say in his successor's appointment, it seems unlikely going by the party precedent.
Amarinder said he too was not consulted when Bajwa replaced him. "Congress president Sonia Gandhi had called me then to say that she is appointing a new PPCC chief. She never told me who was being appointed. Had I been consulted then, I would have suggested a different successor," he said.
On why was the announcement for Punjab was not made on Monday, All-India Congress Committee general secretary and in charge for Punjab Shakeel Ahmed said: "We will announce the name as soon as the decision is taken in this regard," Ahmed said.
Lal Singh supporters and Bajwa's detractors had to keep their celebrations on hold on finding Punjab missing on the list of new PCC chiefs. A shrewd politician, Lal Singh's biggest advantage is his acceptability to a majority of the Congress leaders, but his biggest challenge will be to piece together a divided Congress by taking all warring factions along.