Punjab Congress faces crisis as Captain and Sidhu cross swords ahead of elections


Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh leaves after meeting Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi, at her residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)

S Gopal Puri

Punjab is known for warriors and it is the heartland of Sikhs but political turmoil here in ruling Congress with elections nearing next year has put suspense on its political future. 

Infighting in Punjab Congress is increasing. The dispute between the Chief Minister of the state Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu does not seem to be subsiding. There is a stir from Chandigarh to Delhi. On one hand Navjot Singh Sidhu is meeting the high command in Delhi and on the other hand Captain Amarinder Singh has again started ‘Lunch Diplomacy’.

In order to gauge the pulse of Congress MLAs, the Captain called Hindu leaders and former MLAs for lunch at the CM residence in Chandigarh on Thursday.  In a way, it is being seen as a show of strength by the Captain. MLAs from urban areas were among those who met the Captain. Amarinder had also invited Congress leader and former minister Ashwani Sekhri from Batala. Earlier, Amarinder had also discussed tea with MLAs, MPs and ministers at his home.

In fact, Hindu leaders are angry due to the continuous neglect in the government of Captain Amarinder Singh and the party is getting away.

There are five Hindu ministers in the Punjab cabinet. Hindu ministers include Brahm Mohindra, OP Soni, Vijay Inder Singla, Sundar Shyam Arora and Bharat Bhushan Ashu.

There is also Rajkumar Verka, MLA from Amritsar West. The Chief Minister held this meeting at a time when there was a discussion going on in the Congress to hand over the command of state president to Navjot Singh Sidhu. If this happens, then two important positions of the Congress will go to the share of Jatt Sikhs.

Menwhile, Navjot Singh Sidhu is busy improving his maths by meeting the high command in Delhi. He first met Priyanka Gandhi on Wednesday and then met Rahul Gandhi in the evening. Sidhu himself also shared a photo of meeting Priyanka on social media.

After meeting Sidhu, Priyanka had a 40-45 minute long discussion with Rahul Gandhi. Later, both also met Sonia Gandhi. According to sources, in the meeting, discussions were held with three-member committee members Harish Rawat, Mallikarjun Kharge and JP Aggarwal on taking Sidhu to the deputy CM, campaign and selection committee. In this, it was agreed to include Sidhu in the campaign committee.

Punjab Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu meets AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at her residence, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

According to sources, the Congress leadership is trying to get Sidhu a position in the party. There is discussion that Sidhu can be made in-charge of the campaign committee. At the same time, despite the opposition, he can also play an important role in the ticket selection committee.

While Sidhu wants the post of party state president, the Captain says that both the chief minister and the state president cannot be Sikh faces. This can damage the reputation of the party.

In a new development, former Union Minister and Congress MP Manish Tewari took on Congress MP Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday amid the ongoing Punjab Congress crisis and repeated barbs against the state government on Twitter by Sidhu. Tewari said, “there is no problem in the state, there are some issues due to the stepmotherly treatment of the Central Government. However, if someone wants to take on his personal agenda through Twitter or any other medium then the leaders at the AICC should take it seriously”. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been continuously taking on Captain Amarinder Singh’s government in Punjab on the power issue in the state, but Tewari has backed Captain.

Tewari said that since 1966, when Punjab came into existence as a state and till 2017, no party has got 77 assembly seats out of 117 strengths of Punjab Legislative Assembly. And the Congress has won 3 Assembly by-polls, 8 Lok Sabha seats out of 13 seats in Punjab, he pointed out.

“Congress has also secured victory in more than 90 per cent of the local bodies. If you ask any MP whom they had called for their campaign, they would say that the Captain. The Punjab government is doing well but only a few people have their own agenda,” added Tewari.

The reaction of the Congress MP came amid the internal fighting in the state unit. Punjab Chief Minister had met Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and had assured he would follow the decision that she would take.

According to sources, the Punjab Congress crisis would end soon but what would be the role of Navjot Singh Sidhu is still a suspense.

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