The much-awaited expansion of the Punjab cabinet is likely to be deferred till after the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election and municipal elections.
The decision was taken by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi and CM Amarinder Singh during a meeting in Delhi on Saturday.
While Rahul also met Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar, general secretary in-charge Asha Kumari and secretary Harish Choudhary and subsequently held a one-on-one with Jakhar and Kumari respectively, Cabinet expansion was not taken up. Jakhar had been specifically asked to cut short his trip abroad and be present in the meeting on Saturday in view of a planned discussion on expansion. But the issue did not come up in their meeting with Rahul. Sources said the four leaders deliberated at the state of affairs in the party in Punjab.
The Cabinet expansion was deferred as it was felt there were many contenders for the remaining eight berths. Those who would be left out may not work hard for the party in the upcoming elections, which may affect prospects of the Congress. The elections would be a litmus test for the Congress in state after coming to power in March.
Though the date of Gurdaspur by-election would be decided by the Election Commission of India, it would have to be conducted mandatorily till October, within six months of its falling vacant following the death of sitting BJP MP Vinod Khanna on April 27.
The municipal elections would be conducted by the state government and it is in no mood to do it any time soon. The government will wait for the four corporations, presently under SAD-BJP rule, to complete their tenure on September 10. Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has already announced that the election would be before the end of this year and after September.
The cabinet aspirants, it seems, may have to wait for another 4-5 months. Several leaders, including those close to Amarinder, have been waiting to secure a place for themselves. Amarinder too has been under pressure from those quarters. During the entire day on Saturday, when the party leaders were meeting in Delhi, a disquiet prevailed in the party as several names were doing the rounds.
Later in the day, Amarinder also met AICC president Sonia Gandhi. This is his first meeting with the party president after Congress came to power in Punjab. He is learnt to have briefed her about his government and its achievements.