With the Congress emerging as the clear winner in Punjab, and Amarinder Singh slated to become chief minister, the focus has shifted to the post of deputy chief minister. While supporters of Navjot Singh Sidhu seem confident of the cricketer-turned-politician assuming the role of Amarinder’s deputy, several senior Congress leaders are waiting to see if the high command “rewards the late entrant” with the coveted post. The fact that Sidhu worked for the party for just a little over a fortnight and did not help colleagues in Uttar Pradesh, despite their requests, has many Congress leaders privately protesting against the possibility of him being the deputy CM.
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Moments after the results became clear in Punjab, lobbying began in certain quarters to prevent Sidhu from landing the post. A senior leader, who told The Indian Express he would oppose the move to elevate Sidhu “tooth and nail”, said “it would be unfair to have two leaders from the Malwa region, both belonging to the same community and from Patiala, in the top two posts. “Congress has thrived on the Hindu and Dalit votebanks in Punjab. They should consider a Hindu or a Dalit for the post,” said the leader.
However, the lack of contenders could work in Sidhu’s favour. A few senior leaders who could have staked claim to the post, including former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar, have lost the elections. Former Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa was not in the fray, while the party’s senior vice president Lal Singh did not get a ticket. Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh, while addressing media, said the decision on the Deputy CM would be taken by AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi.
All eyes are also on Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of outgoing CM Parkash Singh Badal, who had prepared the Congress manifesto. He is perceived to be in the good books of Rahul. Manpreet was the finance minister in the Badal government before he drifted away and launched his own People’s Party of Punjab, which later merged with the Congress.
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