NEW DELHI (TIP): The Congress on March 5 effected a generational shift in its Punjab unit. Capt Amarinder Singh, 71, was removed from the post of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president and replaced by Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa. Harish Chowdhary, an MP from Barmer and secretary of the All-India Congress Committee, has been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after party affairs in Punjab. The announcement about the change of guard in the Punjab Congress was made by AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi around 10.35 pm. The change would come into force with immediate effect, he said. The appointment of Bajwa, 55, also indicated the shift in power centre from the Malwa region of the state to the Majha region — north of the Beas. Bajwa, was a minister in the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state between 2002- 07. A student of DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, he was first elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1992 when the Akalis had boycotted the poll and Beant Singh had gone on to form the government . In 2009, just ahead of the Lok Sabha poll, Bajwa, then a sitting MLA, was picked to challenge sitting three-time BJP MP Vinod Khanna from Gurdaspur, and Bajwa won.
The removal of Amarinder Singh, a former Chief Minister and confidante of the Gandhi family, comes in the backdrop of Moga Assembly debacle in which a sitting Congress MLA, Joginder Pal Jain, first resigned from his seat and contested on the Akali Dal ticket to emerge victorious. The defeat led to schisms and a public spat with Amarinder Singh having issued show-cause notices to two sitting MLAs, Brahm Mohindra and Randeep Singh Nabha, for allegedly not participating in the Moga bypoll with full vigour. Amarinder Singh, whose wife Preneet Kaur is the Minister of State for External Affairs, was first appointed the PPCC chief in 1998. He went on to become the Chief Minister of the state in 2002.
Just ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha poll he was again made the PPCC Chief with the Congress hoping for good performance. Being former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s schoolmate, Amarinder Singh was on very good terms with him, and hence he enjoyed a good rapport with Sonia Gandhi, too. From here on, unless he is absorbed into the central party leadership, it will be a politically slippery ride for the scion of the Patiala royal family.
For Bajwa, things had been changing fast. On December 5, 2012, during a debate on FDI in Parliament, Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Badal chided him when she got up to oppose the decision of the government to bring in the FDI.
A verbal duel ensued and Bajwa waved a letter written by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal last year in support of the Centre’s move to allow the FDI. “What happened to your stand? Here is the letter that your husband wrote last year supporting the FDI. Don’t you consult each other at home?” Bajwa needled Badal who hooted him down saying he was speaking to impress UPA chief Sonia Gandhi so that he could get appointed as the Punjab Pradesh Congress chief.