The Congress appointed Asha Kumari as party in-charge of Punjab, replacing Kamal Nath who stepped down from the post earlier this month after he was criticised by the opposition parties over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
A member of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, Ms. Kumari, 52, was convicted in a land grab case in February. She is currently out on bail.
Congress sources said Ms. Kumari was chosen because Captain Amarinder Singh, who is likely to be the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming elections in Punjab, did not want any “heavy weight” on the post.
And Ms. Asha Kumari is considered a “soft-spoken, easy-going politician” who can make Capt. Singh feel at ease.
Senior Congress leader Janardhan Diwedi told journalists that Ms. Kumari’s designation is “in-charge” and it should not be misconstrued as “general secretary in charge,” a post to which only seniormost politicians can aspire for.
Mr. Nath’s appointment in early June as general secretary in-charge of Punjab drew flak from the State’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the opposition Aam Aadmi Party.
The two parties targeted Mr. Nath, accusing him of being involved in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984.
On June 15, Mr. Nath wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying he had been “hurt” by the criticism of the opposition parties and offered to step down as an “unnecessary controversy has been created around 1984 riots.” Ms. Gandhi was quick to accept his resignation.
Ms. Kumari’s appointment is considered an achievement for the five-time MLA, who was thought to have been sidelined by Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Ms. Kumari hails from Chhattisgarh, and is married to the royal family of Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. She is known for her hard work and political skills.
She was an aggressive Youth Congress leader during the days of Indira Gandhi. She is facing a land dispute case, and was convicted by a special court at Chamba. The sentence was suspended by the High Court.
Her appointment is seen as important because of the cases of corruption and disproportionate assets being faced by Mr. Virbhadra Singh. Senior leader Anand Sharma has declared his inability to return to the State politics, and the high command is on the lookout for a leader of Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s calibre.