The Congress – scrabbling to restore control in Punjab after a “humiliated” Amarinder Singh resigned as Chief Minister yesterday – is likely to name two deputies in addition to a replacement.
Sources, however, have said the deputies will depend on who gets the nod for the state’s top post.
Sources close to Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu – whose prolonged and hostile spat with Amarinder Singh triggered the latter’s resignation and precipitated this crisis – were quoted by news agency ANI as saying ‘whatever name is agreed for Chief Minister, it will be accompanied by two deputies… however, decisions of deputies will depend on who is named Chief Minister’.
The Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu feud dates back to the 2017 Assembly election, when Mr Sidhu hoped to be made Deputy Chief Minister but was reportedly denied the post by Mr Singh.
Veteran MP Ambika Soni, believed to be the party’s first choice to replace Mr Singh, turned down the offer; Ms Soni reportedly said “no” at a late night meeting with Rahul Gandhi; she stressed on the “ramifications” of a non-Sikh leader, particularly with an election due next year.
The Congress had called for a meeting of its legislature party this morning but that has been postponed to 1 pm after Ms Soni declined to be considered for Chief Minister.
Sources have now said the CLP, or Congress Legislature Party, will only be summoned once all MLAs have been consulted and a shortlist of names acceptable to all is drawn up.
Sukhjinder Randhawa, a cabinet minister and the Dera Baba Nanak MLA is being considered.
Other probables are ex-state unit bosses Sunil Jakhar and Pratap Singh Bajwa,and Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of late former Chief Minister Beant Singh.
The 2022 Punjab Assembly election is viewed as a critical test for a Congress trying to simultaneously retain power in one of the few states it still controls and retain its image as the principal national opposition to the BJP.
With input from ANI