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Bhattal to head CLP
Dullo resigns as Punjab Congress chief
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Still not able to come out of the shock of the assembly poll debacle, the All-India Congress Committee has set in motion its efforts to restructure its Punjab unit by preferring Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to Amarinder Singh as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

By virtue of her new position, Bhattal will automatically become the leader of the opposition, enjoying the status of cabinet minister.

No decision has been taken on the change of guard in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). It may take a while before the party decides to go in for a new chief. Incidentally, PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, who lost the elections from his home turf of Khanna, was busy today in the wedding of his daughter. The wedding was solemnised at a simple ceremony to which not many PPCC leaders or office-bearers were invited.

Dullo is understood to have already submitted his resignation to the party high command.

The CLP at its first meeting held last week authorised Congress president Sonia Gandhi to name its leader. Interestingly, immediately after the meeting, a majority of its members also signed and sent a letter to Sonia Gandhi suggesting that the outgoing Chief Minister should continue to be their leader in the Vidhan Sabha.

Ruffled by the contradictory stand taken by a majority of the new legislators, a senior functionary of the AICC reportedly got in touch with them to convey the “strong displeasure of the party high command over their double standards”.

“ How can you, on the one hand, authorise the Congress president to name your leader and, on the other, want Amarinder Singh to continue as the CLP leader? ” was the objection raised by the party high command.

Caught on the wrong foot, the panic-stricken MLAs then wrote a new letter reposing their faith in the Congress president and reiterating their earlier resolution of empowering her to name the new Punjab CLP leader.

Sources reveal that a group of CLP members also called on the Congress president some days ago to suggest that Amarinder Singh should be named their leader in the Assembly. Her response, however, was not in the affirmative.

Bhattal, who defeated Prem Singh Chandumajra by 244 votes from the Lehragaga assembly constituency in one of the closest contests last month, has the distinction of being the first woman Chief Minister of Punjab.

She was named the deputy chief minister after there was a revolt for change in the CLP leadership in December, 2004.

Bhattal suffered reverses as one of her loyalists, Raj Khurana, switched party before the assembly elections. Other loyalists like Amrik Singh Dhillon (Samrala) and Jagmohan Singh Kang (Morinda) were defeated in the poll.

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