Chandigarh: A fresh bout of infighting has broken out in the ranks of the Punjab Congress, this time between Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Randhawa, who is also the state’s home minister, said Monday that he was ready to resign from his ministry if Sidhu wanted to run it.
Addressing a press conference Monday, Randhawa said his government was doing its best to catch Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, who appears to have gone underground since 22 December when the state police registered an FIR against him for his alleged involvement in a drug case.
On 1 January, the Youth Akali Dal put up pictures of Majithia — its president — paying obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on its Facebook page. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) then attacked the Congress government, alleging that it wasn’t serious about arresting Majithia, who was “roaming freely” in the state.
Randhawa also appeared to come under attack from Sidhu, who reportedly said during a rally in Batala on 26 December that “nothing will happen with the FIR”. “Unless he is arrested, Sidhu will not rest,” he was quoted as saying.
Accompanied by Congress national spokesperson Alka Lamba, Randhawa claimed Monday that the pictures of Majithia were “fake”. He added that the AAP had no locus standi to speak about the case as its chief, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, had apologised to Majithia in an Amritsar court in 2018 for having accused him of being involved with drug smugglers.
When asked about Sidhu’s comments, Randhawa said he was ready to give up his position as home minister if there were others in the party who found that they could do a better job.
The churn in the Congress ranks comes months after differences between Sidhu and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh led to the latter’s resignation from the party. Amarinder will now contest the 2022 Punjab assembly elections with the BJP.
ThePrint made multiple calls to Sidhu for a comment but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
Congress leaders ranged against Sidhu
During an interview with a television channel Sunday, Randhawa said Sidhu had been upset with him ever since he was chosen as home minister, and had been commenting on his work ever since.
Cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu also took a dig at Sidhu Sunday, accusing him of creating confusion within the party ranks. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Ashu had said that Sidhu was constantly attacking his own government, projecting himself as the only honest person in the party, and everybody else as “a thief”. Ashu said if Sidhu thought things were going wrong in the Congress, he should leave the party.
Randhawa supported Ashu’s statement, adding that Sidhu did not understand or appreciate the Congress culture in which the decision to give tickets for elections was a collective one taken at the party level.
Both Ashu and Randhawa criticised Sidhu for going from constituency to constituency and allegedly hinting at giving out tickets to particular leaders without taking others into consideration.
With the assembly elections coming up, cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh spoke openly against Sidhu to a television channel Monday, saying that he was harming and weakening the party. “If the Congress puts up a united stand, it has a sure-shot chance of retaining power and coming out victorious. But if Congressmen continue to fight, everybody will have to pay the price for the mistakes made by one or two people,” he said,
He added that many of those who Sidhu had supported in rallies had left the Congress. “It should be clear to everyone by now what Sidhu is doing to the party,” he said.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)