NATIONAL

Amarinder has contenders for chief ministership

NEW DELHI, FEB. 15. As the dust settles after the poll battle in Punjab and the Congress awaits a formal announcement, personal battles have begun to surface in the Punjab Congress. Rajender Kaur Bhattal and Jagmeet Brar, two of the principal opponents of the PCC chief, Amarinder Singh, have begun voicing their opposition to Mr. Singh's claim to chief ministership.

Ms. Bhattal has made little secret of her desire to head the Congress Legislature Party once again and has given ample evidence of being a contender for the chief ministership once the results are declared.

Claiming that she enjoyed the support of over 45 prospective party MLAs, Ms. Bhattal made it known that the question as to who would be the next Chief Minister was still wide open and her own candidature could not be discounted.

Apart from staking their own claims, both Mr. Brar and Ms. Bhattal appear determined to spoil Mr. Singh's chances. Both these leaders have indicated that they would be willing to withdraw their claims provided Mr. Singh did the same and a compromise candidate was agreed upon. Ms. Bhattal made it clear yesterday that she would be willing to withdraw her claims in favor of the AICC general secretary, Ambika Soni.

Ms. Bhattal's move is being viewed as an attempt to spike the PCC chief's chances by pitting him against Ms. Soni. By suggesting Ms. Soni's name, she wants to negate the support that Mr. Singh enjoys with the party high command. Ms. Soni is not only a CWC member, but also enjoys the confidence of the Congress president.

This move, however, appears to have come unstuck with Ms. Soni categorically ruling herself out of the race. ``I have never been a candidate for chief ministership of Punjab and I have no intention of being one now,'' she told The Hindu.

She also made it clear that the elected MLAs, along with the high command, would choose their leader. Both Mr.Brar and Ms. Bhattal were not available for comment.

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