Monday, 24 January, 2022
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Congress high command hardens stance, looks for Sidhu’s replacement as Punjab state unit chief

Despite parleys through the day Wednesday there has been no breakthrough and it is still not clear whether Sidhu has been convinced to withdraw his resignation unconditionally.

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Chandigarh: Even as Punjab Congress tries to resolve the fresh round of crisis in the state, triggered by the resignation of state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu Tuesday, the party high command seems to have hardened its stance in the matter.

Party observer Harish Chaudhari who reached Chandigarh Wednesday morning did not meet Sidhu who was in Patiala throughout the day. Instead, sources said, he met a few party MLAs at a hotel in Chandigarh to discuss the possibility of replacing Sidhu with another president if he does not withdraw his resignation.

Sidhu had tweeted his three-sentence resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi Tuesday and he followed that up with a five-minute video message Wednesday morning, reiterating his stand while spelling out the main reasons behind his resignation. 

In his message, Sidhu made it clear that the appointment of Inderpreet Singh Sahota as DGP and A.P.S. Deol as advocate general were unacceptable to him.

 

The video came after over a dozen MLAs, including cabinet ministers Razia Sultana, Pargat Singh and Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, had met Sidhu at his residence in Patiala Tuesday evening. Sultana has even resigned from her cabinet post in solidarity with Sidhu. 

Sources said that Tuesday night Sidhu agreed to withdraw his resignation only if the appointment of the DGP and AG are resolved.

Warring and Pargat Singh who met Sidhu again Wednesday morning had said that the matter would be resolved by the end of the day.

Sources, however, added that the high command has hardened its stance on Sidhu and asked the party’s state leadership to sort the crisis on their own.

Working president Kuljit Nagra has been deputed to resolve the matter. Despite parleys through the day, however, there has been no breakthrough and it is still not clear whether Sidhu has been convinced to withdraw his resignation unconditionally.

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi Wednesday told the media that he was ready to appoint a special prosecutor to handle sensitive cases but made no promise of changing the advocate general or the DGP.

The CM added that he had talked to Sidhu Wednedsay morning and tried to convince him (to withdraw his resignation). “I told him that the party chief was the head of the family and the government worked on the party ideology and if there are some issues which need to be resolved they should have been spelled out,” Channi said in Chandigarh.

It was learnt that Channi too was expected to meet Sidhu Wednesday evening. However, no meeting took place till the time of publishing this report.


Also read: Spotlight’s on new Punjab ministers to resolve issues they raised when Amarinder was CM


Sidhu reiterates resignation; spells out reasons

In his video message Wednesday morning, Sidhu said that he will not compromise with the cause of the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, adding that he would not accept those now put in charge of getting justice for Sikhs. 

He was referring to DGP Sahota who as ADGP in the Shiromani Akali Dal regime in 2015, had picked up two Sikh youth for the desecration issue. The two men were let off later because of lack of evidence.

Sidhu also referred to new advocate general Deol as someone who was responsible for getting “bails to those who got children killed in their mothers wombs”. The former Congress president was referring to Deol being the advocate of ex-Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini who is charged with extra judicial killings of Sikh youth during the days of militancy. 

During the incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib he was the DGP of the state and is also facing charges of having ordered the firing on Sikh protesters, two of whom were killed in Behbal Kalan. Deol has been defending Saini in these cases in the various courts of law.

Sidhu also made a passing reference to “tainted ministers” in what appeared to be a veiled attack on deputy CM Rana Gurjit Singh, who has been inducted into the cabinet despite opposition from MLAs of Doaba. A minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh cabinet, Rana Gurjit was removed in 2018 after he was allegedly involved in a scam in which a company run by his employees had been granted mining contracts. Rana Gurjit Wednesday claimed that he had been given a clean chit by a committee of the Vidhan Sabha.

Sidhu receives flak within party

Sidhu’s resignation, his second in three years, came within days of the change in leadership in Punjab. Former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh was replaced by Charanjit Singh Channi following a rebellion within the party led by Sidhu.

Outgoing chief minister Amarinder Singh said Sidhu’s resignation had vindicated his stand. “I told you so. He’s not a stable man and not fit for the border State of Punjab,” Amarinder tweeted. 

Sidhu had joined the Congress only four years ago after leaving the BJP. In July this year, he was made the state Congress chief. On his insistence, the party let Amarinder go. 

Many senior Congress leaders have now expressed their displeasure at Sidhu’s resignation, admitting that the Congress leadership had been hugely embarrassed by the move. 

Former party chief Sunil Jakhar tweeted that Sidhu had breached the trust that the party high command had reposed in him.

“It’s just not cricket ! What stands compromised in this entire ‘episode’ is the faith reposed in the (outgoing ?) PCC President by the Congress Leadership. No amount of grandstanding can justify this breach of trust placing his benefactors in a peculiar predicament,” he tweeted. 

 

The Congress MP from Ludhiana, Ravneet Bittu, accused Sidhu of being a party hopper. “Some persons cannot digest seeing others happy and that is exactly what happened with Sidhu. I think he is always working for some unknown forces which could also be the RSS,” he told the media in Chandigarh Tuesday.

The Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib, Manish Tiwari, tweeted lyrics of a song by Kuldeep Manak hinting that Sidhu was the wrong choice (made by the high command). 

 Opposition has a field day

The Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday reacted to Sidhu’s resignation, saying that he always knew that the latter was a misguided missile and cannot be trusted. He said if Sidhu really wanted to save Punjab he should move out of Punjab and shift permanently to Bombay.

Raghav Chadha of the Aam Aadmi Party issued a video message saying that the kind of theatrics that were playing out in the Punjab Congress was nothing short of the party humiliating Punjabis. “The Congress has turned governance into a joke,” he said.  

 

Experts also said that Sidhu may have pushed it too far this time around.  

“Sidhu’s resignation is almost like a child throwing a tantrum,” said Prof. Ashutosh Kumar of the department of political science in Panjab University.

“There is no doubt that Navjot Sidhu is an unusual politician. He fits into the same category of politicians like Jai Prakash Narayan, Chandrashekhar and even V.P. Singh who are non-conformists; the eternal rebels who do not want power for themselves and take unflinching stands on various issues. That seems to be Sidhu’s politics but he is failing in it. And that has largely to do with the fact that he doesn’t have the patience or sagacity that such politics requires.” 

“Punjab politics is not an arena for gimmicks. If you look at the chief ministers that the state has had in Parkash Singh Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh, both  have led the state without any drama or abrupt moves,” said Kumar, a leading expert on Punjab politics.

Dr Kanwalpreet Kaur of the department of political science at DAV College in Chandigarh, said Sidhu had not only embarrassed the party high command but also himself. 

“He while trying to take a superior moral position has in fact exposed himself, proving that he too like the others only hankered after power and wants his stamp of authority on everything that the government was doing,” she told ThePrint. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


Also read: 5 reasons why Navjot Sidhu has resigned, pushing Punjab Congress into deeper crisis


 

 

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