Appointed as Punjab Congress chief in March 2013, Partap Singh Bajwa may be on his way out this March.
According to Cogress sources, the party had been holding consultations for a change of guard in Punjab with its prominent leaders and was awaiting the culmination of civic elections to usher in a change. The poor show in municipal body polls and the rout in his home turf, Majha, has sealed the fate of the embattled state chief who was facing open dissent from a majority of MLAs and old-timers.
The sabbatical of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had further queered the pitch for Bajwa who was banking on the former to salvage the situation by holding a mega rally in Punjab in March-end.
Bajwa on Sunday dismissed the news flashed by a television channel on Saturday evening and carried by some newspapers the next day about his being replaced as speculative. "I have made my inquiries from Delhi. Discussions are on for several states and Punjab could be one. But till now, I have not been taken into confidence on it," he told HT.
Though he seemed reclined to his fate, he wants a say on the selection of his successor.
In the consultations in Delhi, names of former minister and senior MLA Lal Singh and Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar are learnt to be among the frontrunners. Bajwa, who does see either as a consensus candidate, said: "I will share my views on the consensus candidate when asked. They cannot overlook my views, as I have the support of grassroots-level workers and many Congressmen have struggled with me for the party."
All-India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and in charge for Punjab Shakeel Ahmed also did not rule out the possibility of change in the state Congress leadership. "I will not rule it out, but no decision has been taken as yet," he said.
According to his close aides, the appointment of Lal Singh would mean handing over all the three important posts - CLP leader, state Congress chief and campaign committee head - to former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of party in Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh camp.
CLP leaderJakhar is a confidant of Amarinder and the latter was keen to have him replace Bajwa. Lal Singh, an OBC leader, is also seen as a Amarinder loyalist by the Bajwa's camp as he was present in all shows of strength by the former chief minister. Amarinder is likely to be brought in later to chair the campaign committee and a "consensus" working president would be appointed to keep warring factions at bay, party sources said.
Lal Singh, when contacted, said discussions on change of guard were on but there was no confirmation on the name. If appointed, it would be Lal Singh's second stint as the working president. He was appointed the working president of party even in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when then Punjab Congress chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee was to contest from Jalandhar and Amarinder was made the campaign committee head.