Congress leader Ambika Soni, who was called in a late-night meeting with Rahul Gandhi, has declined to become the Punjab chief minister. Sources close to her said she has instead suggested that a Sikh become the Punjab Chief Minister.
After the refusal, the Congress which wanted Ambika to become the CM after Amarinder Singh resigned, the party is now considering other names, including Pratap Singh Bajwa, Sukhwinder Singh Randhawa, and Ravneet Singh Bittu. Earlier, the party had decided to appoint Sunil Jhakhar as the Chief Minister, but now the party leadership is having second thoughts on his name.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi held a meeting late in the night in which party leader Ambika Soni, General Secretary Organisation K.C. Venugopal were present. The meeting ended post-midnight on Sunday.
Sources said the discussion on a new chief minister was held and also strategy to pacify Amarinder Singh was discussed. Since Ambika Soni hails from Punjab, the party leadership wanted her to become the Chief Minister till elections are held.
Ms Soni made it clear at the meeting that not having a Sikh as the Chief Minister has “ramifications”, the sources said, asking not to be named.
The Congress’s three political observers for Punjab are meeting with every MLA to get their views on the matter, and the three will report back to the party high command for a decision on who would be the next Chief Minister.
Sources said the party wants to project a non-Sikh face ahead of the polls to counter the AAP which is gaining ground in the state.
Sources also said that the party wanted a Sikh, Navjot Singh Sidhu, as the state Congress chief and a non-Sikh CM candidate combination in the polls.
Many in the party are upset with the bad handling of the matter, sources said.
Mr. Singh’s resignation comes months before assembly elections are due in Punjab, and the new Chief Minister will have a lot of ground to cover once the leader takes charge.