M A I N   N E W S

Amarinder returns as Punjab Cong chief 
Party makes changes in 18 states, Kaul Singh Thakur retained in HP, Yashpal Arya in U’khand
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, October 26
With 2012 Assembly elections in sight, the Congress today effected leadership change in Punjab, giving the reins of the party to former state Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who led the Congress to victory in the 2002 state elections.

Amarinder Singh and G Parmeshwar, who will head the Congress state units in Punjab and Karnataka, respectively, are the only two major changes made by party president Sonia Gandhi in the list of 18 PCC chiefs that she approved today.

Sonia has decided to retain Kaul Singh Thakur and BB Bahl as party chiefs in Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, respectively. Ramesh Chennithala in Kerala and Rita Bahuguna Joshi in Uttar Pradesh, Manas Ranjan Bhunia in West Bengal, JP Agrawal in Delhi, AV Subramaniam in Puducherry, Yashpal Arya in Uttarakhand and Bhubaneshwar Kalita in Assam are also among those PCC chiefs who have been retained by her.

Sources said while announcements of PCC chiefs for Rajasthan and Haryana, the two states where the intra-party dynamics are making the choice difficult for the party president, are likely to be announced next week, the name of former Union minister Saifuddin Soz has been forwarded as the PCC president of J&K to Sonia for approval.

Amarinder Singh replaces Mohinder Singh Kaypee.

While his name had been doing the rounds for quite some time, sources said there were wide consultations in the party leadership on his name, especially in view of several claimants, including Partap Singh Bajwa, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Jagmeet Singh Brar, for the spot.

There was also speculation that the change in Punjab may come close to elections, but the high command apparently decided that the party should start gearing up for Assembly poll as soon as possible.

Sources said the party leadership considered Amarinder the best bet to take on Akali Dal and Parkash Singh Badal. A prominent anti-Badal face in Punjab, his strong point is the ability to mobilise masses. However the challenge before the party now would be to ensure that Amarinder manages to take the other factions along.

Meanwhile, Parmeshwar replaces RV Deshpande in Karnataka. Parameshwar is MLA from Koratagere in Tumkur district and belongs to SC community. Unlike Deshpande is expected to be a strong party chief with a large following of his own.

Sonia also approved the result of elections to the Pradesh Congress Committees held in northeastern states, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Nabam Tuki will continue as the chief in Arunachal Pradesh, Gaikhangam in Manipur, Friday Lyngdoh in Meghalaya, L Lalthanwala in Mizoram, Kuldeep Sharma in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Ponnikkkam Shaikhoya in Lakshadweep. SI Jamir will be the state party chief in Nagaland.

She also directed state units to ensure that one-third members of the AICC and the PCC are women.

Continuing to be proactive on the issue of women empowerment, she apparently wants 33 per cent reservation for women while deciding the AICC members.

There are around 1,000 AICC members from all over the country who form the electoral college for the Congress Working Committee.

Sources said the party chief had also asked the Pradesh Congress Committees to ensure that one-third of their office-bearers were women. She also made it clear to state units that they should not go for jumbo committees and opt for compact panels.

Elections for the CWC are scheduled at the meeting of the AICC on November 2 here. 





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