From Sunil Jakhar to Navjot Singh Sidhu, probable faces for Punjab CM post after Amarinder’s exit

Former Punjab President Sunil Jakhar has emerged as a frontrunner amid reports that the party wants to project a non Sikh chief ministerial face ahead of polls to counter AAP which is gaining ground in the state

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Just four months ahead of the Assembly polls in Punjab, Congress veteran Amarinder Singh Saturday stepped down as chief minister, citing “humliation” after a section of MLAs sought a change in state leadership “for third time in recent months”.

With Captain’s resignation, speculations on who would be helm the Congress party have started growing. Former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar has emerged as a frontrunner amid reports that the party wants to project a non-Sikh chief ministerial face ahead of polls to counter AAP which is gaining ground in the state.

According to media reports, the party wants a Sikh, Navjot Singh Sidhu as state party chief and non-Sikh combination in the state election.

Here are short profiles of chief ministerial probables:

Sunil Jakhar

Amarinder Singh’s bete-noire and PCC president Sidhu, who is eyeing the chief minister’s post, however, is unlikely to be a probable choice for the chief minister’s replacement, highly placed party sources revealed to news agency PTI on Saturday pointed out. Former Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar may be considered a probable, they said.

Jakhar, who is not an MLA, is believed to be close to the top leadership and is considered a prominent Hindu face of the party.

The 67-year-old politician has been consecutively elected thrice from the Abohar constituency from 2002 to 2017.

A leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha from 2012-2017, Jakhar was elected from Gurdaspur, Punjab to the Lok Sabha the Lower House of Parliament in a by-election.

Navjot Singh Sidhu

However, it is also expected that Sidhu might himself be projected for the top post. He currently is the president of the Punjab Pradesh congress committee.

Trouble in the Punjab Congress has been brewing for long and Singh was strongly opposed to Sidhu’s appointment as PCC chief.

Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh ever since he quit the Punjab cabinet as a minister in 2019. He had become more vocal in his views in the last some months.

In 2017, he joined the Congress party and was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Amritsar East.

Pratap Singh Bajwa

Another name doing the rounds is Pratap Singh Bajwa. He is the MP of Rajya Sabha from Punjab and had served as a member of the Lok Sabha representing Gurdaspur in Punjab from 2009 to 2014.

Starting his political career as a student leader in 1976, Bajwa became the President of Youth Congress in 1982 and rose to the President of State Congress.

He has served as a minister under chief ministers Beant Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhathal, and Amarinder Singh.

Ambika Soni

Soni is an MP representing the state in the Rajya Sabha and served as the Union minister of information and broadcasting.

She was elected the president of the Indian Youth Congress in 1975 and worked closely with Sanjay Gandhi. In March, 1976, Soni was elected to Rajya Sabha and in 1988 became the president of the All India Mahila Congress.

She served as the general secretary of All India Congress Committee from 1999 to 2006. In January, 2000, she was again elected to Upper House and resigned on 10 June, 2004.

She was the minister of tourism and minister of culture in UPA I government from January, 2006 to May, 2009.

Under the UPA II government, Soni served as the minister of information and broadcasting from May, 2009 to October, 2012.

Humiliated thrice by Congress MLAs in recent months: Amarinder Singh

Addressing a press conference following his resignation, Singh said he felt “humiliated”, and though “at the moment” he remained with the party he had his “options open” for his political future.

“I was humiliated three times by the Congress leadership in the past two months… They called the MLAs to Delhi twice and now convened CLP here in Chandigarh today,” said the Captain, adding that he had decided and informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning that he would resign.

He said he would decide his future political course of action in consultation with his supporters who have stood by him for over five decades.

“Apparently they (Congress high command) do not have confidence in me and did not think I could handle my job. But I felt humiliated at the manner in which they handled the whole affair,” he told media persons at the gate of the Raj Bhawan.

“Let them appoint who they trust,” he remarked, taking a dig at the party leadership.

With inputs from agencies

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