With no solution in sight to a standoff between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the state Congress now seems to be looking to find middle ground between the two.
Two days after Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra appealed to Sidhu to take charge of his new portfolio, Rural Development Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa on Monday advised Sidhu to assume charge. Bajwa, who had earlier distanced himself from commenting on Sidhu, returned from a holiday in Canada and said, “Sidhu saab should join. He is a wise man. He should contribute to the department which is of the utmost importance.” He added, “Changing portfolio was the prerogative of the Chief Minister. Sidhu saab should accept that and join his new department….I want to tell him that nobody is indispensable in this world.”
Amarinder had changed Sidhu’s portfolio a month ago on June 6, and handed him Department of Power. But a defiant Sidhu has not assumed the charge yet and remains incommunicado. Sources close to him said he was at Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and is likely to get back within a day or so. They, however, refused to comment on his next course of action.
Bajwa’s advice came three days after a delegation of Punjab ministers, including Brahm Mohindra, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Charanjit Singh Channi, met AICC leader Ahmed Patel alongwith CM’s political secretary Sandeep Singh Sandhu with a dossier on Sidhu. Though a minister denied meeting Patel on Sidhu, he told The Indian Express on anonymity, “I can swear that Navjot Sidhu’s name did not appear in the meeting even once. We had gone to meet the senior party leader to take guidelines to restructure the party in Punjab in view of changes in central leadership.”
Sources, however, said Patel did not take the dossier on Sidhu kindly. He is learnt to have told the leaders that in view of crisis being faced by the Congress at the Centre, the state leadership should have avoided creating a situation that arose after Cabinet reshuffle as it had made even the Punjab Congress a laughing stock.
The state Congress had otherwise done well by winning eight seats out of 13. The Congress is now looking for a middle path as it is being felt that neither the Chief Minister nor Sidhu are likely to blink.
Amarinder had also earlier met Patel in Delhi. Sidhu had met Rahul Gandhi, when he was the AICC president after his portfolio was changed.