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Bhattal to be Deputy Chief Minister
Anita Katyal & S.Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

Punjab Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in a conversation after the AICC general secretary in charge of the state announced her appointment as Deputy Chief Minister in New Delhi
Punjab Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in a conversation after the AICC general secretary in charge of the state announced her appointment as Deputy Chief Minister in New Delhi on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, January 6
While the Congress central leadership today officially announced the details of the compromise formula hammered out to end the internal wrangling in the Punjab Congress, it has only resulted in fuelling discontentment within the rebel group.

As per the details of the peace package, Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who led the demand for a leadership change, will now be the new Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab. She will, however, retain her portfolios while the crucial home portfolio will remain with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is not being removed.

While Mrs Bhattal maintained that she was accepting this post “on the orders of the high command,” the rebel group, however, was up in arms over the peace package. While some described Mrs Bhattal’s decision to accept the post as a case of “backstabbing”, others were angry as they had been left in the lurch.

“ Our fight was not for any post. We took a stand for the removal of the Chief Minister,” said Education Minister Harnam Das Johar, adding that this basic demand had not been met.

In addition, the Cabinet will soon be reshuffled to accommodate some members of the rebel group and the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) revamped to ensure representation to both factions. Among those who are being tipped to get ministerial berths include Ms Razia Sultan, Dr Harbans Lal, Mr Raj Khurana and Dr Raj Kumar.

Although there is no official word on the changes in the PPCC, Congress sources said these would be attended to shortly. A change in the PPCC chief is also not being ruled out with former minister R.L.Bhatia and Lok Sabha member Shamsher Singh Dullo being tipped to take over from the present PPCC president Hanspal.

With two Sikhs at the helm of affairs, Congress sources said they would have to accommodate non-Sikhs in the organisation. Mr Hanspal had earned the rebel group’s ire as he was seen to be playing a partisan role in the factional battle.

Announcing the details of the compromise formula, Ms Mohsina Kidwai, AICC general secretary and in charge of Punjab affairs, said all these changes had been taken following consultations with Mrs Bhattal, but maintained that she had never asked for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post. Ms Kidwai said both Mrs Bhattal and the Chief Minister had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi at last night’s meeting that they would bury differences and work unitedly for the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Mrs Gandhi, who met all legislators, is learnt to have told the two leaders that they should now take personal responsibility for five Lok Sabha seats each.

PPCC vice-president M.M.Singh Cheema said this was nothing but a futile exercise as the state party unit had not been consulted. He said it was the party which runs the government and if the Congress central leadership was serious about the coming Lok Sabha election, it should strengthen the party first. He suggested that Mrs Gandhi have a meeting with the PPCC which would motivate the workers.

Speaking in the same vein, Mr Brij Lal Goel, vice-president of the state party unit, said the Pardesh Congress workers would meet the three-member AICC committee to lodge its protest and request it to reconsider its decision.

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