Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday constituted a six-member Punjab Congress committee for coordination with the party's all-India unit during the Lok Sabha election preparations, keeping former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh out.
By keeping Amarinder out, the high command has tried to minimise his role in the Punjab Congress affairs in view of his sharp differences with state party president Partap Singh Bajwa. The coordination committee will comprise Bajwa; Congress general secretary and Punjab in-charge Shakeel Ahmed; state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar; senior party leader and Sanaur legislator Lal Singh; Jalandhar parliamentarian Mohinder Singh Kaypee; and Barmer (Rajasthan) MP Harish Chaudhary, who also looks after the Punjab Congress affairs.
Sonia had cleared the names late Thursday after consultation with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The committee will work with the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) for organising political rallies and other functions in Punjab till the Lok Sabha elections are announced formally. It will also initiate mass-contact programme to galvanise its workers across the state.
The new committee has also been assigned to take all welfare schemes of the party's central government to the people and educated them how it has given the common man the right to information, education, and food. It was Bajwa who recommended the names of Lal Singh and Kaypee, who is also on the Congress Working Committee (CWC), for the job to the party high command, say sources, adding that it is a balancing act, as Lal Singh represents the Backward Class, while Kaypee is a Dalit leader from the Doaba region.
On Thursday, when Rahul Gandhi came to address a Congress rally in Sangrur, Shakeel Ahmed asked Kaypee especially to speak from the dais for almost five minutes, an indication that he was being prepared for a bigger role.
The Congress high command was in the process of finalising the names for the coordination committee when Thursday's showdown between Bajwa and Amarinder in Sangrur in the presence of Rahul prompted the senior leadership to act fast.
The high command knew that Amarinder was unhappy with the elevation of Bajwa, as he went public with his reaction that he was not even informed before being sacked, as he could have suggested a better alternative. One-upmanship in public was the last thing the leadership wanted to see close to the Lok Sabha elections, so on reaching New Delhi, Rahul was keen to constitute the coordination committee, thinking it would unite the party. From the Sangrur rally, Rahul took Bajwa along in his helicopter and finalised the committee on way to Delhi.