Ashwani Kumar, Manish Tewari Back Amarinder

New Delhi
Ashwani Kumar, Manish Tewari Back Amarinder

On the eve of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's show of strength tomorrow, two former Union Ministers today came out in his support.

The former Union Ministers Ashwani Kumar and Manish Tiwari said Singh stands "tall" among the leaders in the state and there is a need to revive the party and unite the cadres in Punjab.

The comments by Kumar and Tiwari come in the backdrop of leadership tussle in PCC headed by Pratap Singh Bajwa against whom the former Chief Minister has raised a banner of revolt.

Sources say that in tomorrow's show of strength of Amarinder Singh in his Moti Bagh palace in Patiala, 30 MLAs, besides 70 other district presidents and former MLAs are likely to attend.

They say that the meeting will strategise how to take on ruling Akali-BJP combine in the state amid changing equations between the two alliance partners.

"The Congress high command is fully seized of the ground situation in the state. The mood of the moment is to forge unity within the party to take on the Akali-BJP combine which has totally lost credibility in the state. The Congress cadres are looking for a leader who can galvanise the public mood and on that score Amarinder Singh stands tall," Ashwani Kumar told PTI.

"The fact that he (Amarinder Singh) is the tallest leader of the party in Punjab is an escapable reality. If he is articulating a point of view, obviously he would have taken the ground level situation into account. It should be taken with gravitas," Tiwari said.

Tiwari said if Singh is articulating something "it needs to be taken seriously", though he said any change of leadership in a state is the sole prerogative of the Congress President by convention and tradition.

Kumar said, "Of course, Capt Singh has himself stated that the final decision will be that of Congress high command. I have no doubt that the Congress high command will soon take suitable action in accordance with the sentiment of the Congressmen in the state to help rejuvinate the party in the state."

Amid a factional feud in Punjab Congress, Amarinder Singh had yesterday met party chief Sonia Gandhi and is understood to have pressed for removal of Bajwa as PCC chief.

Singh has tomorrow invited senior Congress leaders from the state in a bid to show his strength in the party and to strategise the party's revival in Punjab.

Sources said Singh told Sonia that Bajwa, his known detractor, has failed to take the party along with him leading to major dissidence against his leadership.

"Bajwa cannot secure victory for the party. It is time Pratap Bajwa is changed if Congress is to be rejuvinated in Punjab," Singh had said yesterday.

Singh has been openly airing his views against the leadership of Bajwa, who has been his known detractor, and seeking a change in the leadership in Punjab.

He is understood to have told Sonia that if Congress has any chance left in Punjab, the party has to change Bajwa, who he alleges has failed to take the party with him and bring in fresh blood and vigour into the party.

Sources said Singh had earlier met Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi before going abroad and raised the issue of leadership change with him.

The leadership change in Punjab Congress has been sought at a time when strains between Punjab's ruling coalition partners Akali Dal and BJP appear to be growing.

Punjab goes to assembly polls in January 2017. Congress has lost to SAD-BJP combine in the previous two assembly polls and the party could win only three seats out of a total of 13 in the last Lok Sabha polls, with new entrant AAP securing four seats.

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