With crucial assembly elections in Punjab just 18 months away, the Congress leadership is expected to take a final call on the change of guard in the state soon.
Party sources indicated that the high command is “disinclined” to replace Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa with former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh as the move could send a “wrong signal of succumbing under pressure” and trigger calls for change of guard in others states as well.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in their meeting with Amarinder on June 8 had offered him the post of campaign committee chief but the Amritsar MP rejected the proposal.
Amarinder’s close associates insist that he would accept the offer only if Bajwa is replaced with his nominee.
While Bajwa is said to have the backing of Rahul, the central leadership is also exploring the option of finding a consensus candidate in case the infighting escalates.
A senior central leader is learned to have suggested Soni’s name on the ground that she is a heavyweight and could carry everybody along. “She will be a sure-shot antidote to both Amarinder and Bajwa,” said a party functionary.
But Punjab Congress leaders countered that it would be difficult for Soni to galvanise the party at this juncture as she had been out of Punjab for a long period and also that her influence is restricted to a small region only.
The Amarinder camp is pitching for Jakhar, arguing that his appointment could counter the BJP’s move to woo Hindu voters.
Tough choice for party
While state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa is said to have the backing of Rahul Gandhi, the central leadership is also exploring the option of finding a consensus candidate in case the infighting escalates
The names of former union minister and party general secretary Ambika Soni, Congress Legislature Party leader in Punjab Sunil Jakhar, senior leader Lal Singh and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu are doing the rounds