Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as the new president of the party's Punjab unit, notwithstanding the strong opposition from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Gandhi also appointed four working presidents to assist Sidhu in the run-up to the next assembly elections.
The appointments came after days of internal squabbling and public bickering that virtually divided the state unit between two factions owing allegiance to Singh and Sidhu.
The new working presidents are Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra, who represent different regions and castes.
"Congress president has appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee with immediate effect," according to a party statement.
"The party appreciates the contributions of outgoing PCC president Sunil Jakhar," the statement said.
Nagra, who was in-charge of party affairs in Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura, has been relieved of his present responsibilities.
Sidhu, who joined the Congress from the BJP ahead of the last assembly elections in 2017, has increased his efforts to gather support in the past few days and met several MLAs and leaders.
With the decision, the party leadership has clearly signalled to put its weight behind Sidhu while ignoring Amarinder Singh's opposition.
The leadership feels Sidhu can lead the party's campaign with fresh energy and enthusiasm and help ensure its victory in the upcoming assembly polls slated for early next year.
Sidhu's ability to pull crowds and launch a vigorous campaign has worked in his favour as the party feels that infusing fresh energy in the party ranks is required at a time slackness has set in after four-and-half years in power.
The support of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has also helped in Sidhu clinching the post despite strong resistance.
The cricketer-turned-politician now faces the challenge of uniting the party and bringing cohesion in its ranks, besides winning the trust of the old guard and veterans.
Chief Minister Singh is learnt to have told Sonia Gandhi that he will not meet Sidhu till he publicly apologises for his attacks on him in the recent past.
Calls are being made by party veterans to unite the party ahead of the assembly polls, else the AAP and the Akali Dal-BSP combine could upstage it.
AICC general secretary in-charge for Punjab affairs of the party Harish Rawat congratulated Sidhu and the four working presidents.
He expressed his gratitude to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for granting approval to the new team in Punjab. "Thank you madam for your great gesture," Rawat said.
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