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New chiefs for poll battles

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi handpicked former chief minister Amarinder Singh to take on Parkash Singh Badal and the Akali Dal-BJP combine in the 2012 Punjab assembly polls.

delhi Updated: Oct 26, 2010 23:04 IST
Saroj Nagi

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi handpicked former chief minister Amarinder Singh to take on Parkash Singh Badal and the Akali Dal-BJP combine in the 2012 Punjab assembly polls. She also chose Dalit leader Dr G. Parmeshwar to give new life to the organisation that was being run by immigrant leaders in Karnataka where the BJP seems to be on a sticky wicket.

Tuesday’s announcements of 18 PCC chiefs — including seven who came through the route of organisational polls as espoused by Rahul Gandhi — are part of the reconstitution of the AICC.

While balancing social and other factors, Gandhi made changes in Punjab, Karnataka and Nagaland (SI Jamir) but retained nine PCC presidents, including Rita Bahuguna Joshi (UP), J.P. Aggarwal (Delhi) and MR Bhunia (West Bengal) and Ramesh Chennitala (Kerala) where elections are due in 2011.

The appointments in major states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, where the Congress was wiped out in the recent panchayat polls, are yet to be made.

In replacing M.S. Kaypee, a Dalit, with the 68-year-old Jat Sikh in Punjab, the Congress hopes the 2012 polls will be a replay of 2002 when Singh steered the party to victory.

As legislature party leader R.K. Bhattal — a known Singh-baiter — is also a Jat Sikh, the party is banking on the continued support of Hindus and Dalits while trying to win the Jat vote from the Akalis. It will try to cash in on the dispute in the Badal family and exploit the government’s anti-incumbency.

“Singh is the only leader who can take on Badal” said a party member.

In Karnataka, Parmeshwar, who started his career in the late Eighties, replaces RV Deshpande who was associated with late Rashtriya Navanirmana Veddike leader RK Hegde. A Dalit, the former CWC member and ex-education minister, will be politically complemented by Siddaramaiah who has a hold over the kuruba (shepherd) community.

“No loyalist was going to the party office so far. Now some activities will start,’’ said a leader.