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Friday, October 22, 2021

Punjab: Congress defers legislative party meet after no consensus on new CM

The Congress party's senior leaders have been calling up all its MLAs to get their opinion over the matter

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 19, 2021 1:58:48 pm
Scenes outside the Congress office in Chandigarh on Saturday. (Photo: PTI)

Having failed to reach a consensus on the next chief minister of Punjab, the Congress has deferred it legislative party’s meeting scheduled on Sunday and has started calling up its MLAs to take their opinions on the matter.

“About half-an-hour ago, we started calling up all our MLAs to get a list of probable chief ministers. Let’s see what comes out of it,” a party leader said.

While former PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar’s name was finalised till last evening, the party held it back after murmurs of protest during the CLP meet on Saturday. Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had opposed saying that if a Hindu leader was to be named the CM, then it has to be Rajya Sabha member Ambika Soni. Randhawa was, however, placated later.

However, it has been learnt that several leaders from Punjab have objected to the choice of a Hindu as the CM’s candidate. They are learnt to have stated that if Congress names a Hindu, Sikhs would be very upset by it. Hectic parleys were on in a local hotel where the central observers were staying. AICC leader Rahul Gandhi also held a meeting late at night in Delhi.

“A Sikh leader told the observers that if a Hindu is made the CM, the Sikhs would not forgive them as Punjab is the only one state where they can have a chief minister. They even told the party’s high command that if Congress chooses a Hindu leader, then AAP president Arvind Kejriwal would easily become the CM candidate in the next Assembly elections and he would really get a lot of traction,” a source privy to discussions informed.

It is learnt that Rahul Gandhi is supporting Jakhar. “There is a discussion that if Rahul can get Navjot Sidhu as the president of Punjab Congress despite the opposition by former chief minister Amarinder Singh, then he can get anyone as the next CM,” a source said.

Sources said that although Sidhu had expressed some apprehensions regarding Jakhar initially, he is now on board with him becoming the new CM. “He will agree with Jakhar if a Hindu is to be named the CM. He will oppose it if the party names a Jat Sikh as a CM other than him,” a source close to Sidhu said.

Randhawa, who worked hard to ensure a massive victory for Jakhar in Gurdaspur during the 2019 Lok Sabha bypolls, is, however, opposed to him becoming the CM.

Party general secretary and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat and two central observers Harish Chaudhary and Ajay Maken are currently in Chandigarh.

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