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Monday, October 12, 1998
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Jagjit Singh Punjab LCP leader
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 11 — In an attempt to bring forth the Dalits and backward classes in the party, the Legislature Congress Party (LCP) in Punjab has elected Chaudhary Jagjit Singh as its new leader.

In the elections held last evening, the Punjab LCP unanimously elected Chaudhary Jagjit Singh as its leader. He replaces Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal as the head of the LCP. It would be for the first time that a Dalit would be holding this position.

According to reports here, the election of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh was in conformity with the wishes of Congress President Sonia Gandhi that Dalits and other backward classes should be given due importance in the party.

Punjab Congress Committee President Amarinder Singh said the services of Ms Bhattal would be used in other capacities in the party. The first woman Chief Minister of Punjab, Ms Bhattal had been elected as the leader of the CLP in 1996.

After the emergence of the Akali Dal government in Punjab following the last Assembly elections, Ms Bhattal took over as the leader of the Opposition. Before being replaced as the leader of the LCP, Ms Bhattal had also earlier been removed as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

Capt Amarinder Singh said 11 of the party’s total 14 MLAs participated in the meeting, convened at Punjab Bhavan yesterday. Ms Meira Kumar, AICC General Secretary in charge of Punjab Affairs, was also present. Among those who could not attend the meeting were Ms Bhattal and Nakodar MLA Amarjit Singh Samra and Jalandhar city MLA Avtar Henry.

Responding to a question, the Congress state President said the election of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh would help boost the prospects of the party in the by-election to the Adampur seat as that constituency had 36 per cent of Dalit voters.

Reiterating that the Congress was still open and amenable to putting up "secular challenge" to the "communal Akalis" in Adampur, Capt Amarinder, however, said if the Bahujan Samaj Party did not agree to back the Congress candidate, his party would certainly field its own candidate. "We were placed second, while the BSP was third in Adampur" in the 1997 Assembly elections, he added.

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