After 17 months of a widening gulf between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his former Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu, the duo finally met over lunch to bury the hatchet and “work together for party’s future” in the state.
Amarinder hosted Sidhu at the former’s personal residence at Parol village. The meeting lasted an hour and a half, and the duo discussed politics and strategy. While the meeting is being seen as a precursor to Sidhu’s reinduction into the Punjab Cabinet, those privy to the meeting said Sidhu’s future in the government did not come up for a discussion on Wednesday.
Sidhu reached Amarinder’s farm house in the afternoon. The luncheon meeting took place in the presence of Amarinder’s aide and Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi. After the meeting, Sidhu left for Amritsar.
“It was a warm & cordial luncheon meeting that saw CM @capt_amarinder and Navjot Singh Sidhu discuss a host of important political matters of Punjab and national interest. The two leaders spent a pleasant over an hour sharing thoughts on vital issues. @sherryontopp @INCIndia,” CM’s media advisor Raveen Thukral tweeted.
Sources privy to the meeting said both the leaders discussed how to take the farmers’ agitation forward. Sidhu zoomed past the media in his vehicle and did not stop to talk to the mediapersons gathered outside the CM’s personal residence. He did not even pose for a picture. Neither Sidhu nor the CMO shared the pictures of the luncheon meeting.
Rana Sodhi told The Indian Express that various issues cropped up in the meeting. “There were several issues. The discussion revolved around the strategy for 2022 Assembly election. It was a general discussion. There was nothing in particular that was discussed. The duo was meeting after a long time. Captain sahib and Navjot had not met for a long time. Both were courteous to each other. The meeting, all I can say, can be termed good development for the times to come.”
“He said the CM was glad to see him, and so was Navjot. The talks took place in a very peaceful and courteous environment,” he said.
To a question if Rana Sodhi was instrumental in getting both the warring leaders together, he refused to comment saying he did not know anything.
There was no word from Sidhu camp. An aide of Sidhu said it appeared that his reinduction into the Cabinet was on the anvil.
HARISH RAWAT MISSING
Congress general secretary incharge Harish Rawat, who had been working to iron out differences between Sidhu and CM, was conspicuous by his absence from the meeting. A Congress leader, commenting on his absence, said, “It is very strange that Rawat was not part of the meeting. I do not know what the matter is, whether the CM invited him or not. But even if the CM did not invite him, how is it that Sidhu went to the meeting without him? Rawat was going to the extent of visiting Sidhu’s residence, called him a Rafale and what not. Sidhu should have put his foot down and stated that he would want Rawat in the meeting.”
Rawat’s absence is being watched keenly as he has been an active general secretary incharge who was in Punjab even around Diwali. He was instrumental in getting Sidhu by escorting him to former AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in support of farmers at Moga. Later, he celebrated Sidhu’s birthday by cutting a cake. He had stated that he would bring both CM and Sidhu together.
The meeting is being seen as an important step towards paving the way for Sidhu’s re-induction into the Cabinet. Sidhu had resigned in July last year to protest against Amarinder divesting him of his local bodies department. The CM had stated that Sidhu was a non-performer. He handed over the power department to Sidhu who refused to take up his new assignment.
Sources indicated that Amarinder was firm on not handing him local bodies department. It was being debated whether he would be given the housing department along with the department of power. A group of leaders has also been stating that the party high command wanted to name Sidhu as the PPCC chief. But Amarinder had dug in his heels.
CM-SIDHU MEETING TO WARD OFF OPPONENTS
A group of leaders in party is also seeing CM-Sidhu meeting as the Congress party’s way of sending a message to several political parties eying Sidhu. “With the meeting, everybody will get a message that Sidhu is with the Congress,” a leader said.
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