Congress May Name 2 Deputies In Addition To Amarinder Singh Replacement

The Amarinder-Sidhu feud dates back to the 2017 election, when Mr Sidhu hoped to be made Deputy Chief Minister but was reportedly denied the post by Mr Singh

Congress May Name 2 Deputies In Addition To Amarinder Singh Replacement

Punjab Congress: Amarinder Singh told Sonia Gandhi he had been "humiliated" (File)

Chandigarh:

The Congress - which has named Charanjit Singh Channi as Chief Minster of Punjab after a "humiliated" Amarinder Singh quit yesterday - is also likely to name two deputies, sources have said.

Mr Channi is a Dalit Sikh, which suggests his deputies will be from the Sikh and Hindu communities, as the Congress looks to cover as many voter bases as possible ahead of next year's election.

Dalits make up an estimated 31 per cent of Punjab's overall population, and the Congress will hope that Mr Channi's presence can counter the tie-up between the Akalis and Mayawati's BSP.

Sources close to Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu - whose hostile spat with Amarinder Singh precipitated this crisis - were quoted as saying 'whatever name is agreed for Chief Minister, it will be accompanied by two deputies... deputies will depend on who is named Chief Minister'.

Sukhjinder Randhawa, a cabinet minister and the Dera Baba Nanak MLA was earlier considered for the top job. Other probables were ex-state unit bosses Sunil Jakhar and Pratap Singh Bajwa, and Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of late former Chief Minister Beant Singh.

Sources had also said 'many are upset with the (party's) bad handling' of this crisis, which included a failed mediation attempt led by state in-charge Harish Rawat.

The three-member team thought they had worked out a compromise - Mr Singh would remain Chief Minister and Mr Sidhu would be elevated to the President of the party's state unit.

However, Mr Singh felt snubbed after the party appeared to ignore his conditions - including vetting appointments of Working Presidents of the state unit; four were announced - in line with Mr Singh's demand to keep the focus on Hindus and Dalits - but none were signed-off by him.

A demand for an apology from Mr Sidhu for his many public barbs was also unmet, further Mr Singh, who yesterday told Mrs Gandhi he had had enough. "I was humiliated three times... they do not have confidence in me... now up to them to appoint anyone they trust," he said.

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Navjot Sidhu has been slammed as "incompetent" by Amarinder Singh (File)

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. He was, instead, made a minister in Mr Singh's cabinet, but he quit after he was downgraded.

Since then Mr Sidhu has been relentless in targeting Mr Singh and exacerbating and worsening the rift between them, leading to yesterday's explosive events, which included around 50 of the party's 80 MLAs writing to Sonia Gandhi and demanding the Chief Minister be replaced.

Veteran MP Ambika Soni, believed to be the party's first choice to replace Mr Singh, has 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 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.

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 (in the face of challenges from the BJP, the AAP and the Akalis) and retain its image as the principal national opposition to the BJP.