'Sikh leader should be face of Punjab': Ambika Soni declines CM post

Soni said a party exercise is underway in Chandigarh, where the AICC general secretary is present along with two observers who are meeting all the MLAs and asking them for their opinion.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Ambika Soni (File | PTI)
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Ambika Soni (File | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Veteran Congress leader Ambika Soni on Sunday said she was offered the post of Punjab chief minister but has declined it as she feels that a Sikh should occupy the top post in the state.

Amid hectic deliberations within the Congress to find a successor for Amarinder Singh who resigned on Saturday, Soni met Rahul Gandhi at his residence on Sunday for further discussions on the new chief minister.

She had met Gandhi on Saturday night also and held long deliberations.

"Yes, I was offered the post but I declined. I am of the view for the last 50 years that a Sikh leader should be the face of Punjab. I have explained this to the Congress chief," she told reporters.

"I feel that a Sikh should be the chief minister in Punjab. There is just one state in the entire country where you have a Sikh CM," she said, while expressing the hope that a new CM will be declared today.

Soni said a party exercise is underway in Chandigarh, where the AICC general secretary is present along with two observers who are meeting all the MLAs and asking them for their opinion.

She also said that there was no tussle in Punjab Congress.

Party sources had earlier in the day said in Chandigarh that a consensus is yet to be made on the name of the new CLP leader, who will be the new chief minister of Punjab.

The names of former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, current state state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa are doing the rounds.

"We will abide by whatever the party leadership decides," said a party leader.

AICC general secretary and Punjab affairs in-charge Harish Rawat and party's central observers Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary are currently in the city.

Punjab Congress legislators on Saturday had authorised party president Sonia Gandhi to pick a new CLP leader.

Congress veteran Capt. Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister of Punjab with less than five months to go for the Assembly polls after a bruising power struggle with state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, and had said that he felt "humiliated" over the way the party handled the protracted crisis.

The 79-year-old Amarinder Singh, one of the Congress' powerful regional satraps, had put in his papers after speaking to the party president and shortly before a crucial meeting of the CLP here on Satruday evening.

He had later launched a no-holds-barred attack against Sidhu, describing his bete noire, a cricketer-turned-politician, as a "total disaster".

Congress sources had said the party -- also battling dissensions in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where its governments are in power -- is trying to balance equations in the poll-bound state and is likely to appoint a Hindu face like Jakhar to the top post.

Jakhar, who is not an MLA, is believed to be close to the top Congress leadership.

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