Congress bets on Hindu face, Jakhar resurrected as Punjab chief
With Jat-Sikh as CM, Rahul tried to balance community equations. Political legacy, popularity with MLAs also helped Jakharpunjab Updated: May 04, 2017 20:06 IST
It was the Hindus who resurrected the Congress in Punjab in the February elections. The party is now paying back the community with compound interest.
After making Brahm Mohindra second-in-command in the state cabinet and Rana Kunwar Partap Singh the assembly speaker, the Congress on Thursday passed the baton of the state unit to former leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar.
According to sources, his appointment has the stamp of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh agreed.
The three-time MLA was in political wilderness after being removed unceremoniously from the post of leader of opposition a year before Punjab went to the polls.
Ironically, Jakhar, who was siding with Amarinder in the latter’s bitter war of succession with his predecessor Partap Bajwa, lost the post while Amarinder replaced Bajwa.
It was preceded and followed by more setbacks. The 52-year-old leader lost from Ferozepur in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The seat had catapulted his father Balram Jakhar to the post of Lok Sabha speaker in 1980. His father too passed away last year and Jakhar could not muster a win from his bastion, Abohar, against BJP’s greenhorn Arun Narang.
MENDING FENCES, BUILDING BRIDGE
Stung by the party overlooking his claim to three Rajya Sabha seats filled last year, Jakhar mended fences with Rahul by meeting him in Delhi after his defeat. With a Jat-Sikh as chief minister in Amarinder, Rahul has tried to balance community equations. Other than being a Hindu face, his political legacy and equity with Rahul, Jakhar’s popularity with party MLAs during his stint as CLP leader too worked in his favour.
On Thursday, Jakhar called on Amarinder soon after being appointed. He had buried the hatchet with Amarinder by meeting him in Delhi after he took over as CM despite not being extended an invite for the swearing-in ceremony of the new government on March 16.
But as state chief, he will have to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the party’s disenchanted MLAs, leaders and workers, who are complaining of a “disconnect” between the party and government, in good humour.
Thanking party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Captain for reposing faith in him, Jakhar said, “I will try to work as a bridge between the party and the government.”
Party insiders said the CM was also keen on former union minister Manish Tewari. But Rahul picked Jakhar owing to his oratory skills, contribution to the party as spokesman during the campaign and his stature as state leader.
Another contender, Lal Singh, had opted out of the race after being appointed Mandi Board chairman.
Congress has appointed 17 new office-bearers, 10 of whom are less than 50 years of age, and seven are from other backward classes, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.