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With a potshot, Sidhu back on Congress stage with Rahul rallies against farm laws

Sidhu's presence at the rally Sunday is believed to have followed cajoling efforts by Congress, which came amid rumours that he may jump ship.

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Chandigarh: “Today, let me speak to my heart’s content. You have made me sit for too long,” said former Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu as he addressed farmers during the Congress’ Kheti Bachao Rally in Moga, which was kicked off by Rahul Gandhi Sunday.

Sidhu was sharing the stage with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for the first time since the 2019 parliamentary polls — which set the stage for a showdown between the two — and seemed to be taking a potshot at what he saw as his sidelining by the state Congress over the past year.

Sidhu has been in virtual hibernation ever since his resignation from Amarinder’s cabinet in June last year. He only resurfaced last month as the passage of three controversial farm laws, introduced by the Modi government and passed by Parliament, left Punjab’s farmer bodies seething. 

So far, however, he had been leading the protests, including one at his ancestral village of Manwala, alone, without the support of the Congress. But now the leader, a former cricketer known to be popular with the public, seems to be emerging on the party stage again, with the Congress believed to have offered him a bigger national role to draw him out of the shadows. 


Also read: Sunny Deol, action hero MP, is missing in action in Gurdaspur & farmers are booing him


Sidhu’s comeback

Sidhu had resigned as Punjab cabinet minister right after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He handed over his resignation to the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi on 10 June last year, but made it public a month later.

The decision was reportedly driven by Sidhu’s resentment at having been stripped of the local bodies portfolio and handed electricity. The shift in portfolio came as Chief Minister Amarinder had laid the blame of the Congress’ “poor performance” in Punjab’s urban seats at Sidhu’s door. 

Earlier, the two had traded blame over allegations made by Sidhu’s wife that she was denied a Congress ticket from Chandigarh at Amarinder’s behest. After his resignation from the cabinet, Sidhu stayed away from public life, even missing the four assembly sessions held in the interim.

His presence at the rally Sunday is believed to have followed efforts by the Congress brass to cajole him out his sulk, especially amid rumours that he may jump ship.

The newly-appointed incharge of Punjab Congress affairs, Harish Rawat, the former Uttarakhand chief minister, is said to be responsible for drawing Sidhu out. 

Rawat had met Sidhu at the latter’s Amritsar residence Thursday in an apparent bid to convince him to be a part of Congress protest rallies, and resolve the differences between him and the chief minister. 

Talking to the media after his meeting with Sidhu, Rawat had hinted that the cricketer-turned-politician had an extremely significant role to play in the party’s future plans. 

“Sidhu is not upset and, even if he is, I am here like his elder brother. He will be seen with the Congress flag in both his hands at our rallies,” Rawat had said

On Sunday morning, Rawat had breakfast at Sidhu’s residence in Amritsar and the two travelled together to Moga for the rally.

Sources in the party said Sidhu will be asked to accompany Rahul Gandhi to all the farmer rallies he holds across the country in the coming days. “The high command has asked Rawat to placate Sidhu who is considered to be an asset for the party. He has been promised a larger role in national politics but there is still no clarity on his role in Punjab,” said a senior Congress leader.

Only MLA in front row

All the requisite gestures to give importance to Sidhu were on display at Sunday’s rally. He was the only MLA to be seated on stage with Rahul Gandhi in the front row. Cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who had organised the rally, and Manpreet Badal were the others seated next to Gandhi. 

Sidhu was also the first to speak after the arrival of Rahul Gandhi on the stage. Sporting a black turban, which he said was a mark of protest against the “black laws”, Sidhu said he will not cut down his speech to a few minutes when asked to wrap up. “Let me speak today. Give me five to ten minutes. In any case, you have made me sit for so long,” he told the stage secretary.

Later, during the roadshow on tractors from Badhni Kalan village in Moga to Jaatpura in Ludhiana for the next rally, Sidhu was again seated along with the two ministers and Rawat in the tractor following the one in which Rahul Gandhi and Captain Amarinder were seated.  


Also read: CM Amarinder transfers Punjab IAS officer who accused minister of scam, draws flak


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Jumping ship to where?
    BJP , he deserted is over crowded andAap he declined.
    Being a practising SIKH he cannot joins the Communists
    Why not Imran Khan and his PTI and help the beleaguered Sikhs in Pakistan.
    By the , he only needs to be SPECIAL ADVISER

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