By expelling former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar on Monday, barely a week of throwing out another senior leader Bir Devinder Singh for the same reason of rebelling against state unit chief captain Amarinder Singh, the Congress high command has conveyed a clear message, that it stands firmly behind Amarinder.
Now, sources have told HT, as per the advice of its poll strategist Prashant Kishor, the party will formally announce Amarinder as its chief ministerial candidate sooner rather than later. “Maybe before Amarinder leaves for his foreign tour on April 19,” said a senior leader on the condition of anonymity. Congress national vice-president Rahul Gandhi is learnt to be planning a visit to Punjab to make the announcement. Kishor has sought early announcement to end any doubts and rumours among Congress workers and the people at large, source said.
Eyebrows were raised when the high command nominated two Amarinder critics, Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo, to the Rajya Sabha much against his wishes. Amarinder had first suggested Sunil Jakhar and Manish Tewari; but later had recommended Hans Raj Hans as the high command reportedly wanted a Dalit candidate. Even that recommendation was rejected, after being accepted initially, as there was a lot of resentment among the traditional Dalit leaders of the party against Hans.
In the process another former state unit president and a known Amarinder critic, Dullo extracted his pound of flesh, but this had sent a message against Amarinder in the rank and file of party. Further, even Jakhar got upset with him, and so did Tewari, sources said.
Apparently, because of these developments, leaders like Brar and Bir Devinder had started blatantly defying Amarinder. There was a buzz that the high command was deliberately propping up such leaders to keep a check on Amarinder. However, with Kishor conveying that “winning the election without Amarinder is impossible”, Rahul carried out a course correction, according to senior leaders and observers.
Rahul is likely to visit Kharar next week to make the CM candidate announcement, said the sources.