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Home > News > Report

Crisis in Punjab may affect Congress in Kerala

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | December 17, 2003 23:34 IST

Still smarting from the defeat in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is yet to make up her mind about the crisis in Punjab.

However, a top Congress leader indicated that if Gandhi does give in to the demand of dissidents for a change of leadership in Punjab, it would be difficult to ignore a similar demand in Kerala.

In Punjab, dissidents led by Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal are demanding a leadership change alleging that power is centred on a coterie close to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Kaur, a former chief minister, enjoys the support of sixteen ministers besides several legislators. She is facing a corruption case being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and reportedly feels the chief minister should have done something to bail her out now that the party is in power.

In view of this, the Congress leaders says, even if Amarinder Singh is replaced, the high command would prefer someone other than Bhattal to take his place. He denied party general secretary Ambika Soni was in the running as she is weighed down by responsibilities at the central level.

Delhi has already seen the spectacle of the rivals making efforts to display their strength to the high command and the statements and counter statements that accompany such episodes. However, neither faction has done enough to convince the high command to take a final decision on the issue.

Also, the dissidents have not reciprocated Amarinder Singh's efforts to placate them.

The crisis has given a breather to former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal who is facing charges of owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. His ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been demanding the chief minister's removal alleging Punjab is facing a constitutional breakdown.

In Kerala, senior Congress leader K Karunakaran will be keenly following the developments. He has been demanding that the high command replace Chief Minister A K Antony. The demand has been hanging fire for several months now but Karunakaran refuses to let up even after several initiatives by the Congress leadership to defuse the crisis.

Thus, while the BJP is preparing to show some quick results in the three states where it was recently elected to power (keeping next year's general election in mind), the Congress is struggling to handle the ones it still holds on to.



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