Punjab elections: Unease in Congress camp over delay in declaring CM candidate

The Congress high command’s decision to avoid naming Punjab unit chief Amarinder Singh as chief ministerial candidate is once again becoming a cause for concern and uncertainty in the party.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Published:October 28, 2016 10:13 am

The Congress high command’s decision to avoid naming Punjab unit chief Amarinder Singh as chief ministerial candidate is once again becoming a cause for concern and uncertainty in the party, especially in the factions that owe allegiance to him.

“It is a time-honoured convention in Congress that after the elections are over, the CM/Opposition leader are named by the central leadership in consultation with the party legislators, in case the CM candidate was not announced earlier,” AICC spokesperson Manish Tiwari told The Indian Express.

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However, since the Congress’s poll campaign in Punjab so far, as orchestrated by the party’s hired strategist Prashant Kishor, has revolved around Amarinder, the absence of a formal announcement has left the party’s rank-and-file restive.

More so because the Punjab Congress has repeatedly rounded on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for not declaring its CM candidate, warning voters against “outsider” Arvind Kejriwal.

Now, they are unable as to why they do not have their own chief ministerial candidate as yet. The questions have grown louder since the reports of cricket-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu meeting key figures in the Congress high command, and the assertions that he is prepared to climb on board “Congress minus Amarinder”.

Congress general secretary in-charge Asha Kumari’s attempts to clear the air with emphatic statements that Amarinder was the face of the Congress in Punjab and that the entire campaign was designed around him have failed to suppress concerns even among Amarinder’s supporters in the party. Her assertions that even the party slogans were coined with “Captain” as the key word and that he would eventually be the candidate have failed to convince workers.

Those in the party who swear by Amarinder’s winnability factor say the party’s chances would improve dramatically if he was declared the chief ministerial candidate. They are hoping that AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi would declare Amarinder as the CM candidate during his visit to the state next month for Kisan Yatra.

During Gandhi’s last visit also, the Amarinder camp was almost certain his name would be announced but was disappointed when Gandhi refused to do so, saying it was not a Congress tradition to announce the CM candidate before election.

However, only days later, the party announced former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate for Uttar Pradesh.