Captain Amarinder Singh will take oath as new Chief Minister of Punjab.
Chandigarh: Punjab, the Congress' only consolation in the recent assembly elections in which it lost four other states including Uttar Pradesh to the BJP, will get Captain Amarinder Singh, 77, as its Chief Minister today. This will be the second stint of the Captain, as the Congress' Chief Minister-designate is also called, in the state's top job and marks the revival of the party in a state where it has been out of power for a decade. The Captain netted 77 of 117 assembly seats for the party in the election that may be his last, leaving 20 for the AAP and 15 for the Akali Dal. But he is not the only one to watch out for at the oath ceremony. Navjot Singh Sidhu, 53, will also be there. The former cricketer, who started his political career with the BJP and negotiated with AAP before settling down with the Congress, is said to be keen to be part of the Captain's team as his deputy.
Here are the 10 points to know about the event, and its politics:
- Captain Amarinder Singh will be sworn in with nine cabinet ministers today at the Punjab Raj Bhavan at 10 am. Watching the Captain take oath will be a large number of Congress leaders including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Among those likely to make it to the Captain's team are the party's senior-most legislator Brahm Mohindra, four-time lawmaker Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, and the state's richest legislator Rana Gurjit Singh. The leader of the Congress legislature party Charanjit Singh Channi and Nabha legislator Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, both Dalits, would also be given Cabinet posts.
- Cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu - who underlined his hopes in the cabinet last week saying "No one can whistle a symphony" - is playing safe. He called himself a "soldier of Rahul Gandhi's army" and spoke about sacrifice: "I will sacrifice myself for Punjab. I want to see Punjab prosper".
- Captain Amarinder has made it clear that Rahul Gandhi, and not he, would decide on Mr Sidhu's role.
- Senior Congress leaders resent the possibility of Mr Sidhu, who joined the Congress a few weeks before elections, getting the Deputy Chief Minister's post. They told NDTV it would be unfair to have two leaders from the Malwa region, the same community and from Patiala, when the party had thrived on support from Hindu and Dalit voters.
- The Captain's big challenge will be to accommodate Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of outgoing CM Parkash Singh Badal. A finance minister in the Badal government before he drifted away and launched the People's Party of Punjab, which later merged with the Congress, Manpreet is perceived to be in the good books of Rahul Gandhi.
- The Congress insists the swearing-in ceremony will be a "low-key" affair, a point being made to stress the financial crisis the previous SAD-BJP combine had left the state in. Punjab government's debt exceeds Rs 1.25 lakh crore, an average of Rs 37,000 for every resident in the state.
- "We do not want to celebrate when the people of Punjab are suffering due to severe financial and other problems," Captain Amarinder, also the erstwhile Maharaja of Patiala, said, setting the tone for the political discourse in the state.
- But the Punjab victory is significant because it holds out hope for the Congress that it could, with the right leadership, nurture the party's goodwill for its revival. Punjab is also the party's first electoral victory in a north Indian state after May 2014 when the BJP rode Narendra Modi's super-wave to come to power.
- The Aam Aadmi Party - that was widely expected to give the Congress stiff competition in the polls - has got the Leader of Opposition post in the new assembly. Dakha lawmaker Harvinder Singh Phoolka has been elected the leader of the opposition while Bholath legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira will be the AAP's chief whip.