M A I N   N E W S

Sonia does not meet Amarinder
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Apparently unhappy with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh over the manner in which his government went ahead with the legislation abrogating water accords with the neighbouring states, Congress President Sonia Gandhi did not grant him an appointment during his three-day stay in the Capital.

The Chief Minister, who met a few Union Ministers and CPM general secretary Harkishen Surjeet, left the Capital today.

Ms Gandhi’s denying an audience to Capt Amarinder Singh, despite a formal request, is being seen as an expression of displeasure over the controversial Punjab Act and not an indication of a move to replace him.

AICC sources said the first priority of the party leadership was to properly address the contentious SYL issue. They said the central leadership would not take any step which would put the onus of the situation on the AICC. The sources said even if a leadership change was made in Punjab, the position of the new leader would remain delicate.

The sources said the Congress would not like to be seen as taking differing positions on an issue. “Once the party has taken a position, it cannot take an opposite stand. A presidential reference has been made regarding the Punjab Act on the SYL canal and the issue will have to be taken to its logical conclusion,” a senior party leader said.

They said Capt Amarinder Singh had written a letter to Ms Gandhi explaining his reasons for enacting the controversial Act.

The “distancing” of Ms Gandhi from the Punjab Chief Minister is being seen in the context of Congress leaders from Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh protesting against the Punjab move. Some party leaders from Haryana, which will face elections in the next few months, had also sought action against the Punjab Chief Minister during their meeting with Ms Gandhi. With the party having lost some ground in Haryana following the Punjab Act, the Congress leadership is keen to be perceived as neutral in the inter-state dispute.

AICC general secretary Ambika Soni said Ms Gandhi might not have met the Chief Minister due to “preoccupation.”

During his stay in the Capital, Capt Amarinder Singh had a “brief” meeting with Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, AICC in charge of Punjab. Mr Mukherjee told the Chief Minister that he would discuss all issues, including the SYL, during his visit to Punjab in the next fortnight.

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