Even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to soon zero in on its chief ministerial face for next month’s battle for Punjab, pressure is building up on the ruling Congress to announce is its leader too.
On Thursday, AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal reached out to a number for residents to give their opinion on the party’s CM face by January 17, asserting that his first choice was state unit chief Bhagwant Mann. The announcement has put the Congress leadership on a sticky wicket with the high command now seemingly under pressure to go to the polls with a CM face.
The issue, as per sources, has been taken up at different levels of the party forum over the last few days by several leaders, including some ministers. “The leaders have opined that instead of focusing on opposition parties, the party should address voters, provide them with a clear-cut vision and also clarity on who would lead the party in the run up to the polls. In short, declare a CM face,’’ said a senior party leader.
The insiders said that both Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu are contenders for the CM face. What has made the selection tricky is that the announcement could trigger further infighting.
Both Sidhu and Channi have said that the party should announce the CM face as it helps in winning the election. “Though Sidhu is popular, ever since Channi has taken over as the CM, he has played his cards smartly and has risen up on the popularity chart. It’s going to be a tough call between the two,’’ commented another leader.
Sidhu’s recent remark that people would choose their leaders and not the high command was indicative of the fact that the cricketer-turned-politician also has his eyes set on the top job.
Significantly, in the 2017 elections, the party high command had announced Captain Amarinder Singh as the CM face just some days before the elections which, many believed, gave it an edge in the polls.
However, senior party leader and close aide of Sidhu, minister Pargat Singh, on Friday batted for a collective leadership for the polls.
“There should be no CM face as it tends to damage the party. Instead, all the candidates should be projected like a team ahead of elections in a democracy. This race for CM’s post is bad. No single leader can be a super human being or a demi-god. If a CM face is announced, everyone tends to make a power centre around him. Ideally all MLA candidates, each of whom will represent a vote bank of nearly 2 lakh people, should be made answerable,” he told the media in Jalandhar