Fearing AAP, Congress may go for bold changes in Punjab

  • Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 30, 2015 00:12 IST
Amarinder Singh, Rahul Gandhi Partap Singh Bajwa

A fear that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) might do another Delhi has forced the Congress to work out a compromise formula to end an internal fight in Punjab that threatens to derail its plans to dethrone the Akali-BJP combine in the 2017 assembly elections. "The uncertainty over the leadership issue has to end," a source said.

Sources in the Congress said former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh could get the state unit's "overall command", including the charge of campaign committee; and a leader "acceptable to all warring groups" is likely to be made the new state party president. The urgency to put its house in order is prompted by an internal assessment that the leadership tussle between Amarinder and state unit chief Partap Singh Bajwa could cost the party dear in the polls due in another 16 months.

The Congress realises that this infighting can benefit the AAP, which is "slowly but steadily strengthening its roots" in Punjab like it did in Delhi state before stunning political pundits with its performance. A section in the party advocates handing over the reins of the state unit to Amarinder, arguing that he alone can help the Congress regain power in Punjab. "Like Virbhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh, he is the party's biggest crowd-puller in Punjab," a senior Congress leader said.

3 big guns, a dark horse in reckoning

In the recent weeks, the buzz that Amarinder might form his own party if the Congress failed to accommodate his concerns had also grown louder. While the Congress leadership is not inclined making him state unit chief, there's a possibility that "someone acceptable to him and other factions" could be given the responsibility. "Manish Tewari, Sunil Jakhar and Lal Singh fall in that category," said a source, adding there would be strong resentment if a young leader such as Ravneet Singh Bittu is assigned to bring about a generational change in the state unit.

Another source hinted that Bajwa might get an important role in the party at the national level. If the leadership agrees to Amarinder's terms, the big challenge for the former CM would be to ensure the party's victory in next elections, as his detractors have argued consistently that the Congress lost the 2007 and 2012 battles under his leadership.


Who could be new chief: Either of former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari, state CLP leader Sunil Jakhar and Sanour legislator Lal Singh, since they fall in the category of "leaders acceptable to all"

Who could be surprise choice: Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, but there will be strong resentment if a young leader such as him is asked to lead state unit, for it would signal a generational change

What about Bajwa: Might get an important role in the party at the national level

What about Amarinder: Might be given charge of the campaign committee in the state.

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