‘Declaring Amarinder CM candidate ‘natural’ decision’

New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) With just a week left for elections, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday named Captain Amarinder Singh as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in Punjab, putting an end to speculation on the issue. Election watchers say the choice was a “natural” decision as the party has no alternative leader and not naming him would have raised many an eyebrow.

According to Congress leaders in Punjab, since the party is contesting elections under Amarinder’s leadership, declaring him the CM candidate was only a matter of time.

Assembly elections will be held on February 4 in Punjab.

There had been a lot of media speculation and tension ahead of the announcement of Amarinder as the CM candidate even though he was the frontrunner. The speculation gained ground after cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu joined the Congress party earlier this month.

Sidhu had earlier deftly side-stepped questions on his possible chief ministerial candidature for Punjab.

“Gehu khet mai, beta pet mai, aur tum vivah ki phikar kar rahe ho (Wheat is in the fields, the child is in the womb and you are worried about his marriage),” Sidhu had said on being asked about his possible CM candidature.

Asked if he was ruling it out, Sidhu replied: “Politics is not done in ifs and buts. No if, no but..only Sidhu – the Jat” – he had said cracking a joke. But last week, he and Amarinder appeared together at a press conference, setting aside all talk of alleged cold war.

Congress sources, explaining the logic behind the delay in announcing the CM candidate, said it was to prevent the “warring factions” within the party to create factionalism.

Political experts feel it is no surprise decision also because Amarinder is a “popular” leader in Punjab.

“I don’t think in the case of Punjab the decision is too late because he is already the Punjab Congress President and the party is fighting elections in his name. I don’t think there is any surprise in this,” Adnan Farooqui, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, told IANS.

“The Congress party doesn’t have any other alternative. There is no second person in the Congress party in Punjab. Amarinder is a popular leader, not only within the Congress, but state as a whole,” he added.

A senior party leader in Punjab said despite having some differences with the Congress’ national leadership, Amarinder respected the decision of the high command. “Now, we would fight to win the elections in Punjab. We cannot oppose the high command’s decision. We respect their decision,” said the leader.

Another senior leader said that the decision was expected and is a “natural” one. “We had four-five programmes in Punjab projecting Captain Amarinder singh as the chief ministerial candidate. It was just a matter of time that it was (officially) announced.”

“The mood within the party was upbeat when it was announced by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi today. Everyone in the party wanted him to the CM candidate,” he added.

Another political commentator Neerja Chowdhary said it is a correct decision and had the party not announced the CM candidate, it would have raised a lot of eyebrows.

“Had they announced it earlier it would have been good, but it is not a bad idea to announce it now, because you give a message and also prevent factionalism from surfacing.

“Amarinder was in the lead to be the chief ministerial candidate and now it has been announced. It is a correct thing to do,” she told IANS.

Announcing the decision at a public rally in Punjab’s Majitha, Rahul Gandhi said: “Amarinder had been the Chief Minister of Punjab and he is the future Chief Minister of the state. He has worked very hard for the development of the state.”