In battle for Congress captaincy,detractors unite to oust Captain

Detractors of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh have joined ranks to take their oust-Captain campaign to New Delhi where they have been joined by over a dozen defeated party candidates,including former MLAs and ministers.

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh | Published: April 10, 2012 12:28 am

Detractors of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh have joined ranks to take their oust-Captain campaign to New Delhi where they have been joined by over a dozen defeated party candidates,including former MLAs and ministers. They are seeking an audience with party chief Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister A K Antony,who is heading a high-powered committee comprising Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to take a stock on party’s debacle in the just concluded Assembly elections.

The leaders are in constant touch with other senior Amarinder-baiters all of whom are avoiding the media following gag orders issued by Punjab Affairs in-charge Gulchain Singh Charak and Antony to end the raging blame game. Other than the defeated MLAs,who have openly demanded Amarinder’s resignation at last week’s meeting are Sukhpal Khaira,Surinderpal Sibia,Raman Bhalla,Ripjit Brar and Mangat Rai Bansal. The list also includes some who were “poached” by Amarinder’s team to stay silent at the meeting and some sitting MLAs. Some fencesitters like Jasjit Randhawa and Navtej Cheema too are learnt to be camping in Delhi.

But what has been helping Amarinder Singh,is the division within his rivals. While former Leader of the Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal,Union minister Ashwani Kumar,Congress Working Committee members Jagmeet Brar and Mohinder Singh Kaypee have all learnt to have asked for change of leadership in the state,there is no unanimity among them on who should replace Amarinder.

Amarinder has been getting support from his wife and now union minister Preneet Kaur. Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni too is considered Amarinder loyalist. Newly-appointed Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar has been playing neutral. Union Minister C P Joshi,who headed the screening committee of Punjab,is yet to appear before the Antony panel.

Hoping to emerge lucky are leaders like Laal Singh,who have good equations with both the Bhattal and Amarinder factions besides family of late CM Beant Singh and MLAs such as Rana Gurmeet Sodhi.

“We are trying to fix the problem and end the blame game,” said Chrak. He said the panel has taken stock of the reasons and shortcomings in the party’s performance than the change of leadership.

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