Amarinder back as Punjab Congress chief

New Delhi: With the 2017 Punjab assembly polls in mind, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday appointed former chief minister Amarinder Singh as the state party chief, a move intended to give a fresh impetus to the beleaguered and faction-ridden unit.

"Consequent upon the resignation of Partap Singh Bajwa from the presidentship of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Sonia Gandhi has appointed Amarinder Singh president with immediate effect," a party press release said here.

The Congress also announced the re-appointment of senior state party leader Sunil Jakhar as the legislature party leader in the state assembly. Legislator Lal Singh was appointed senior vice-president. Both Bajwa and Jakhar had submitted their resignations on Thursday. Their resignations came days after party vice president Rahul Gandhi visited Punjab amid factionalism in the state unit.

The Congress also announced former union minister Ambika Soni as chairperson of the campaign committee for the assembly polls. Congress' Nabha legislator Sadhu Singh Dharamsot will be its vice chairman and Ravneet Singh Bittu, the MP from Ludhiana, its convener.

"Further appointments will be made shortly," the release added. Amarinder Singh, the Lok Sabha member from Amritsar, is at present the Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha. He had resigned as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president after the Congress was defeated in the 2012 Punjab assembly elections.

Reacting to the appointment, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday said the ruling Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) was "least bothered about Amarinder Singh or any other person taking over the command of the Congress".

He told the media in Khadoor Sahib that the leadership change was an "internal matter of the Congress". "For us, all (state) Congress presidents are alike, so we are least concerned about it," Badal quipped, adding that Amarinder had been the Punjab Congress chief twice earlier and the Punjab chief minister once when the Congress lost the assembly polls.

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