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Behind Proposed Punjab Congress Rejig, CM Amarinder Singh Moves to ‘Checkmate’ Challengers

With an imminent rejig in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), a classic ‘chess board’ politics seems to be playing out as factions within the party are trying to checkmate each other.

The power play within the Punjab unit has assumed interesting proportions with former cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu throwing down a gauntlet to his opponents by showing his keenness to take over the reins of the state unit from Sunil Jakhar.

With threat from his bete noire lurking around, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is trying to push for a rejig, which has his men in ‘control’. Sources within the party revealed that the Chief Minister was contemplating proposing an OBC leader for the post of the state party chief.

Party sources said that by backing up an OBC candidate, the Capt. Singh was using the proverbial ‘two birds with one stone’ strategy’. “It suits the present caste matrix in the state party unit at a time when farmers agitation was throwing up many challenges”, commented a senior leader, adding that it could also help thwart the moves by Sidhu to take over the unit.

Sources said that names of some prominent leaders like former finance minister and the chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board, Lal Singh, was doing the rounds. Known for his political acumen and caste advantage, he could fit the bill, sources said. What has left the Chief Minister wary of the fact that the party in-charge for Punjab, Harish Rawat, has been pitching for Sidhu being given an ‘active’ role in party affairs. Not just Rawat, even party legislators like Parghat Singh have been vociferously demanding Sidhu be ‘co-opted’ back into the party fold and given some ‘big’ responsibility.

“There is no point for Sidhu to lap up a cabinet berth with elections just a few months away. Getting control over the state unit of the party will make him gain more power in the day to day affairs,” commented an insider.

Sources said that the party high command had been briefed by the top leaders of the state unit to rejig the organisation keeping in mind the caste matrix. A party leader said that with the farmers agitation throwing up possibilities of some new ‘political players’ emerging, the ruling party despite its successes in the recently-held civic polls, has to plan out organisational restructuring.

“Assembly polls are a different ball game. Stakes are pretty high. The chess board is laid, every player wants to make a winning move,” commented the senior leader.

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