In a move that is set to undermine the authority of newly appointed Punjab PCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa,Congress President Sonia Gandhi Tuesday appointed four PCC vice-presidents entrusting them with the charge of party organisations in three different regions - two for Malwa and one each for Doaba and Majha.
While Tarlochan Singh Soondh has been given charge of Doaba region,Gurdeep Singh Kangar,and Charanjeet Singh Channi were given charge of Malwa region. OP Saini will look after the Majha region.
In a related development,the PCC withdrew Bajwas Monday order appointing his younger brother,Fateh Jung Bajwa,as general secretary in-charge of Congress office and that of former MLA Sukhpal Khaira as the chief spokesman of the party.
A press release issued by the PPCC said,All temporary appointments made in the PCC office Monday are hereby withdrawn with immediate effect till further orders.
Coming barely four days after Bajwa formally took charge of the PCC,the two developments are being seen as an attempt by the party high command to clip his wings.
Bajwa was candid on the stay on his yesterdays appointment. It was done on the advice of a senior leader in the party hierarchy as they want the PCC to be recast in one go and not piecemeal. I had only appointed Fateh as officiating secretary but the press note sent by our office miscommunicated it as general secretary in-charge of the office. I was asked to stay the appointments and do it during the final recast, he said.
On the appointment of four vice-presidents,he said he welcomes the decision. He claimed he was asked by the high command (on the appointments) and he told them he had no problems working with anyone.
The party,while appointing the vice-presidents has taken caste and religious configurations into account. For politically important Malwa region,it has chosen Jat Sikh MLA Gurpreet Kangar who represents Rampura Phul and Charanjit Channi,who represents the SC reserved constituency of Chamkaur Sahib. For Dalit dominated Doaba,it has appointed Tarlochan Singh,who represents the reserved seat of Banga while for Majha,from where Bajwa hails,the charge has been given to Amritsar MLA OP Soni,a Hindu.
However,the appointments have fuelled infighting in the party. While Sonis appointment has not gone down well with Batala MLA Ashwani Sekhri and Talwandi Sabo MLA Jeet Mohinder Sidhu is resenting Kangars appointment. Likewise,the appointments of Channi and Tarlochan has ruffled the feathers of several senior MLAs in the respective zones.
A close aide of Bajwa said the appointments have made the going tough for the PCC chief as they are being seen to have his endorsement. On the appointments made by Bajwa on Monday,he said,He was forced to do so so as those appointed by his predecessor Capt Amarinder Singh had stopped coming to office.
Notably,three of those appointed as vice-presidents have history of joining or returning to Congress after contesting elections as an Independent.
Kangar won as an independent and joined in 2004,OP Soni twice won as an Independent and Channi won as an Independent and extended support to the Congress in 2011.