AICC General Secretary in-charge Harish Rawat’s efforts to bring some unity in the state Congress did not seem to have the desired effect Tuesday, as former Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu stayed away from the party programme for the second consecutive day.
Rawat managed to get Sidhu on the first day and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa and Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari on the concluding day of former AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s Kheti Bachao Yatra. However, on Tuesday, Sidhu was conspicuous by his absence.
Rawat had told The Indian Express on Monday that he had requested Sidhu for another appearance at the Patiala rally.
While Bajwa and Tewari was present and were given time to speak as well, another Rajya Sabha MP, Shamsher Singh Dullo, did not attend the programme. Speaking on his behalf, Bajwa said he was unwell and was in hospital.
Bajwa and Dullo had sought a CBI probe into the recent hooch tragedy and Cabinet ministers had sought their expulsion from the party. Tewari was among the 23 leaders who had written the controversial letter to AICC interim president Sonia Gandhi.
Keeping in view his popularity, the party had asked Sidhu to attend Tuesday’s show.
All eyes were on Rawat Monday and Tuesday morning as several party leaders wanted to know if he would again go to Amritsar to bring Sidhu along. Rawat told the media on Tuesday morning that they had got in touch with Sidhu but he was preoccupied and could not spare time as he was initially invited only for the first day of the programme. He reiterated that the party had a big role for Sidhu in the near future.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders have been listening to his speech at Moga rally and analysing it. “He has not bashed BJP in his speech,” a leader said. But others said he would never go back to BJP especially after the farm laws and the way the farmers in Punjab are protesting against the Centre.
Sidhu’s speech and body language at the maiden rally had stirred up a row, with several leaders saying that he had embarrassed the CM by addressing him as “CM Amarinder” and referring to him in the end of his speech. He had left Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa also miffed by ticking him off openly.
Sources close to Sidhu have however been saying that on the day the MLA did turn up, a slip from Randhawa asking him to conclude landed on the dais, seconds after he started speaking.
Meanwhile, the party is abuzz with news of Amarinder returning to Patiala before Rahul crossing the Punjab-Haryana border after the last rally in Punjab. The security personnel assigned to CM also returned. Rahul only had central security and a few police personnel by his side.
As the CM left, Rahul was left with a few tractors to cross over. Sources said the Punjab Youth Congress then came to Rahul’s rescue and provided him enough workers to form a cavalcade and activists to break the barricades. After returning, Amarinder gave interviews to some TV channels saying Sidhu cannot be made PPCC chief as he is just four years old in the party.
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