Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh was on Tuesday removed from the post and replaced by Gurdaspur MP Pratap Singh Bajwa. Barmer MP Harish Chaudhury,a close aide of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi,was appointed AICC secretary and attached with AICC in charge of Punjab affairs Gulchain Singh Charak. Charak is also likely to be divested of his organistional responsibility shortly,according to party sources.
The change of guard is said to be the beginning of a series of changes that Rahul Gandhi is likely to effect in the state units across the country. The appointment of his aide Chaudhury is significant given that Rahul is learnt to be planning to empower AICC secretaries vis-a-vis AICC general secretaries. While AICC secretaries will continue to report to general secretaries,their roles are to be redefined and specified soon.
With the change of guard in Punjab,the Congress is set to usher in a new era in the state where Amarinder Singh dominated the party affairs as its most popular leader for long. He had been projected as the partys CM candidate in the last Assembly elections and had been blamed for the partys loss. While there was a growing demand in the party for a change of guard in the state,the high command was finding it difficult to replace him due to the dearth of leaders who could match Singhs stature.
The biggest challenge that Bajwa faces now is to put an end to factional infighting in the state Congress at a time when the ruling SAD is perceived to be emerging stronger under the young leadership of Sukhbir Singh Badal. Bajwa had defeated BJPs Vinod Khanna in the last general election.
Late Tuesday,Amarinder said the appointment of the president of Punjab PCC was the prerogative of the Congress president and expressed his gratitude to the party and people of Punjab who stood by him during the past 15 years.
(With ENS Chandigarh)