Keeping with the party convention, the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) met on Monday to pass a resolution authorising party president Sonia Gandhi to appoint its new leader. Former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar had put in his papers in November to make way for an overall organisational revamp.
Newly-appointed Punjab Congress president and Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh, who has been openly batting for Jakhar’s reappointment, was not present at the meeting. But to the surprise of many, it was senior MLA Brahm Mohindra — a contender for the post along with Jakhar in 2012 — who stood up to speak that Jakhar be retained on the post.
Breaking with tradition, Mohindra sought time from two central observers — Rajya Sabha MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi and former minister RPN Singh — and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and in-charge of Punjab affairs Shakeel Ahmad to speak. After a resolution authorising party president Sonia Gandhi to appoint the new leader was passed, Mohindra was allowed two minutes to put forth his views.
“In the past four years, Jakhar has kept the party flag high. He should be allowed to continue,” said Mohindra.
Later, during their interaction with the central observers, Amarinder loyalists also rooted for Jakhar. Led by MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa, MLAs Navtej Cheema, Balbir Sidhu, Sukh Sarkaria, Joginder Singh, Hardayal Kamboj and Ajaib Singh Bhatti said Amarinder’s appointment had created a hope among party workers that their voice would be heard by the high command.
Interestingly, party senior vice-president Lal Singh, who presided over for the meeting, set its tone by reminding legislators that the party high command was supreme. In his welcome address, Lal Singh told MLAs that the only time an election was held to elect the new CLP leader was when Jakhar’s father Balram Jakhar was elected in 1977. “I consider myself lucky to have worked both with the father (Balram Jakhar) and the son,” he said.
He said years later in 2007, they made a “mistake” of getting signatures of 41 MLAs (out of 44) in favour of Captain Amarinder Singh. “When MLA Rana Gurmeet Sodhi got up during the CLP meeting to say they had already elected a leader, AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, who was here as a central observer, told us only the party president had the prerogative to elect the CLP leader and the list with signatures of 41 MLAs was totally ignored and we had to tender a written apology that we would not commit a similar mistake again. Later, former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was appointed the CLP leader,” he reminisced.
After Lal Singh’s lessons in discipline, Shakeel Ahmad asked Bhattal to read a one-line resolution authorising the Congress president to appoint the new leader and it was passed with the raising of hands. Barring two MLAs — Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Mohammad Sadiq — who were absent, 41 MLAs present at the meeting passed the resolution and put down their signatures.
Who can be next CLP leader and why
Rajinder Kaur Bhattal: Former CM and CLP leader is yet to get a post in the party revamp
Lal Singh: Neutral leader and is close to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi
Sunil Jakhar: Clean image and enjoys Captain’s backing
Charanjit Channi: SC candidate and youth leader from Malwa
Raj Kumar Verka: SC candidate and a neutral leader acceptable to all factions
Brahm Mohindra, OP Soni: Hindu faces