Congress Far From Finalising Candidates for Punjab Polls, Campaign Chief Sunil Jakhar Goes on Foreign Trip

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Campaign committee chief of the Congress for the upcoming assembly polls, Sunil Jakhar has left the country for a foreign trip even as Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu continues his crusade against chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi. The party is also in the spotlight for the security lapse incident concerning Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ferozepur on Wednesday.

Congress leaders have voiced their concerns over Jakhar’s decision to leave the country, as the party has not yet finalised its list of 117 candidates for the assembly elections set to be held in a few weeks. Sources close to the former Punjab Congress president said Jakhar had left the country after attending a screening committee meeting in Delhi on Wednesday, according to a report by The Indian Express. The report said Jakhar had chosen to go abroad as he will be attending the central election committee meetings virtually anyway, due to the third wave of the pandemic.

The report quoted a Congress leader as saying, “With the campaign committee chief away, it’s going to be difficult. The chief should be on the ground even if Covid cases are surging. The physical absence of a leader will certainly affect the morale of workers badly,” said a party leader.

Not only this, Jakhar had also criticised his own government over PM Modi’s alleged security lapse. He had tweeted: “What has happened today is just not acceptable. It’s against Panjabiyat. A secure passage for the Prime Minister of India to address BJP’s political rally in Ferozpur should have been ensured. That’s how democracy works.”

Jakhar’s apparent frustration is being linked to the fact that he was seen as a frontrunner to replace Captain Amarinder Singh. He is a three-time former MLA but had lost the previous assembly election in 2017. After losing that election, the same year he won the Lok Sabha bypoll from Gurdaspur, the seat that fell vacant upon the death of BJP MP Vinod Khanna. But he could not hold onto the Gurdaspur seat in 2019 general elections losing to BJP’s Sunny Deol. Jakhar, thus, is not a member of any legislative body at present.

He was, however, the state Congress president until he had to make way for Sidhu last year as part of the party’s apparent push to remove Amarinder. It is well known that Sidhu, with his numerous tirades against Channi, is lobbying to be declared the chief ministerial face even as the party did not choose him to replace Amarinder. Sidhu was widely seen as the leader of the anti-Amarinder coup but has now given an ultimatum to the party to make him the CM face. Hence, the Congress finds itself in a tough spot.

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