The appointment of Dalhousie MLA and former Himachal Pradesh minister Asha Kumari as Punjab Congress affairs in-charge ahead of the high-stake assembly polls due early next year is being seen as a win-win situation for state Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh, as the latter enjoys relatively larger stature in the party.
An All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary, Asha was reportedly chosen over three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit whose name was discussed at the top level to replace senior party leader Kamal Nath.
Nath had to resign after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cried foul over his appointment, raising fingers over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“She will not create problems for Punjab,” Amarinder said.
Not much aware about Punjab and seen as a lightweight leader by the state unit leaders, Asha has been appointed after clearance from Amarinder. “I can work closely with her as she is politically wise and has a positive approach,” Amarinder said.
Even as former chief minister praised previous state in-charges Shakeel Ahmad and Kamal Nath also, he apparently does not want direct interference by the high command.
It seems that even the high command is also giving him free hand at a time when the Congress is facing downward slide nationally and the Punjab assembly elections are being seen a last-ditch effort for the party to stage a comeback.
“A lightweight leader is better suited for Punjab as he or she will not spoil the show here,” said a senior party leader who did not want to be quoted.
The local leadership is looking at Asha’s role being restricted to sending reports and conveying the AICC’s messages to the state unit. Some state Congress leaders feel a senior leader appointed by the high command could have confronted the PPCC brass on some issues.
Former Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar said Asha Kumari would act as a bridge between the state team and the AICC.
As state in-charges in the past have been of the ranks of AICC general secretary, Asha Kumari is considered much junior to most of her predecessors. Many feel that leaders with larger stature create parallel power centres and divide the party.
Many in the state unit of the party feel that with Asha’s appointment, Amarinder Singh now has a bigger responsibility on his shoulders.
Sunil Jakhar said Asha’s appointment is part of party national vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of empowering the local leadership. “When the AICC has reposed faith on the local leadership, the state leaders have to deal with all issues,” he said.