Rahul Gandhi's 'surprise' announcement about Captain Amarinder Singh as CM candidate is perhaps not much of a surprise after all.
If Congress sources are to be believed, the announcement was the result of a well thought-out decision and will be used on an experimental basis. It could even be repeated in other states in future elections if successful in Punjab.
At rallies across the state on Wednesday, the Congress general secretary had reiterated that Singh was the party's choice for CM.
Many were caught unawares as the announcement was a departure from the Congress's tradition of not naming a CM candidate ahead of elections in any state.
Usually, the issue is kept open and alive, particularly in a state like Punjab where there are several claimants for the top job. After results, elected legislators authorise Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to take a decision.
Congress sources said the move will not only put to rest all speculation about the party's CM candidate but also silence Singh's detractors.
Perhaps, a divided house in Punjab, where the ruling SAD-BJP combine is facing a strong anti-incumbency factor, and the Congress's clear edge over its rivals, was also high on Gandhi's mind.
"This is the crunch time and unity in the state unit is imperative for a resounding victory," a party leader said.
The move also comes close on the heels of findings of opinion polls in which Singh emerged as the most popular CM candidate.
"This puts an additional onus on the captain to ensure that the party sails through a stormy competition and wins with absolute majority. The Akalis are not leaving anything to chance. Their campaign is as aggressive as ours," the leader said.
A section within the Congress is also of the view that the move will help the party groom state leaders who could then pose a challenge to the local satraps of the regional outfits.