After Ambika Soni was appointed Chairman of the election coordination committee in Punjab the warring factions of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and State Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu have called a truce. Soni is a senior Congress leader and was said to be the top choice of Sonia Gandhi for the Chief Minister’s post after Amarinder Singh’s exit but she had reportedly declined.
A Rajya Sabha member and close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her inception in Punjab affairs has caused suspicion among the leaders in Punjab who were fighting a turf war. Soni could be reckoned to be the choice of the high command if Congress returns to power as a consensus candidate.
Sources say sensing the move from the Congress high command the warring factions have patched up to put up a united face and also don’t want to send a negative signal to the leadership. Sidhu who has been critical of the Punjab Chief Minister has heaped praises after the state government approached the Supreme Court over the BSF jurisdiction issue.
After the exit of Amarinder, the Congress in Punjab had to appoint Harish Chaudhary replacing Harish Rawat as the new in-charge of the state and had to hold a series of meetings to sort out differences between the two leaders. However, it was not able to restrain Sidhu from speaking against his own government.
On December 6 Sonia Gandhi appointed Ambika Soni as Chairman of the coordination committee, another sulking leader Sunil Jakhar as chairman of the campaign committee and Partap Singh Bajwa as the manifesto committee chairman. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been appointed Chairman of the state election committee and a meeting was called in Chandigarh on Wednesday.
All the three leaders have been contenders for the Chief Minister’s post. Jakhar missed the bus because Ambika wanted a Sikh Chief Minister while Bajwa was the only leader who was against Amarinder Singh as he was removed as the state President ahead of the assembly polls in 2017 but he could not make it.
Ambika Soni, declined to become Chief Minister and had proposed the name if Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa as she said, “I have declined because I sincerely believe that a Sikh should be the CM of Punjab.” But it was Channi who emerged as consensus candidate for both being a Sikh and from a Scheduled Caste community as the Congress wanted to tap the community.