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In less than 72 hours, new Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi has been summoned to Delhi a second time to thrash out a “consensus” cabinet indicating a power dynamics shift in the Punjab Congress.
The message is loud and clear from the party high command — it would now monitor all the political moves and nobody in the local leadership will be allowed a free run. From an administrative reshuffle, that saw top bureaucrat Vini Mahajan being shunted out, to who will be part of the cabinet, the Gandhis will have a say in everything.
Interestingly, sources indicate that the Gandhi’s are even trying to keep the Pradesh Congress Committee chief Navjot Singh Sidhu “under check”. On Wednesday, the Gandhis took along former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar to Delhi while on their return from Shimla to confabulate on the cabinet formation, sending a signal that they would include those as well who are not strictly part of the Sidhu camp.
It is learnt that the party is also contemplating installing someone “neutral” as an election campaign party in charge to ensure a “power balance” in the party. The name of Jakhar is being reported to be doing the rounds. Sources said that not just Sidhu, the Gandhis are keeping their mind open to other voices within the party on cabinet formation.
Though the party high command officially maintains that it wants to give a free hand to the Channi-Sidhu duo in running the state, insiders have said it wants to keep the functioning under its scanner. “Not just who all will be part of the cabinet but who will be the bureaucrats assisting the government will now be a call taken by the high command, more specifically, the Gandhis,” said a senior party leader.
Sources said that the delay in revamping the police top brass was also on account of the high command scanning the names themselves. Though chief minister Channi is reported to have shown his interest in senior IPS officer Iqbal Preet Sahota, the high command was less inclined and instead other names were also discussed.