Updated: November 17, 2021 12:23:26 am
Over a month and half after he resigned as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president and eleven days after withdrawing it, Navjot Singh Sidhu Tuesday resumed charge at the state party office and announced that “winnability will be the only criteria” for the selection of candidates for the next year’s Assembly polls and “being an MLA does not guarantee candidature”.
Sidhu, who took charge in the presence of AICC general secretary Harish Chaudhary, said a list of district Congress committee presidents will be released soon and asserted that the party was united and will soon present a “concrete roadmap on the aspects of organization and governance”.
The Amritsar East MLA had resigned as the state Congress chief on September 28 demanding removal of then Advocate General APS Deol on the grounds that he had secured blanket bail for then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in a 2015 case of police firing on anti-sacrilege protestors.
Sidhu is pushing for the appointment of lawyer DS Patwalia as AG. He had also objected to the appointment of Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota as officiating DGP over the IPS officer granting “clean chit” to the accused in the sacrilege case while heading an SIT in 2015.
While withdrawing his resignation on November 5, Sidhu had put a precondition that he would resume the charge the day a new AG was appointed and a panel for the appointment of a new DGP came from the UPSC.
On November 9, during a joint press conference with Sidhu, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had announced that Punjab will get a new AG “tomorrow” after government accepted Deol’s resignation. Following Sidhu’s concerns relating to DGP, Channi had reiterated that the government had sent a panel of IPS officers to the UPSC.
On Tuesday evening, the Punjab Cabinet, in a meeting, unanimously gave powers to Channi to appoint the new AG. Channi also visited PPCC office and addressed a meeting of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) Welfare Cell of the party along with Sidhu and Chaudhary. He, however, was not present when Sidhu and Chaudhary together addressed a press conference in the evening.
Calling himself and Channi two wheels of a “rath” (chariot), Sidhu stressed that it cannot be driven with either of the wheels missing. He said that the Congress had been united and the “last Vidhan Sabha session was a proof of that”.
“District Congress committee presidents’ list would be out soon, along with spokespersons. In the coming five to seven days, we will complete other things. Simultaneously, will show the power of Congress this month. You will know that the Congress is fighting united and for the welfare of the people,” said Sidhu.
He stressed on giving results to people, saying they will judge leaders only on the basis of performance. “Our goal to make government is not [aimed] to get power but to change the lives [of people]. The focus was on to make people partners in the the government and return the taxes they pay back to them two to three times,” the PCC chief said.
Again pitching for raising the state’s income for spending on development works rather than depending upon the debt, he said, “Punjab is the most indebted state in the country. Today, Goa’s capital expenditure per person is Rs 14,000 while Haryana’s is Rs 6,000 and the national average is Rs 3,500. But Punjab spends only Rs 870.”
Calling the forthcoming Assembly elections as “different”, Sidhu said “Self reliance leads to development.”
Underlining that “the trend to roll out welfare scheme by taking debt” needed to be “reversed, Sidhu said that Punjab Congress under his command was working to “reverse the trend” and take Punjab “out of this mud and debt”.
He said except for the law and order issue, which included sacrilege, drugs and BSF jurisdiction matters, the other issues concerning Punjab were dependent on the “income of the state”.
“We will come up with a concrete plan, a qualitative plan and not a quantitative one, to bail out Punjab,” said Sidhu.
Calling it the “last opportunity” to create “an opportunity to generate income” and stop “exodus” of Punjabi youth, Sidhu said, “We will present a concrete roadmap on two aspects of organization and governance”.
Responding to a question on party candidates for 2022 elections, Sidhu said, “The criteria will be winnability. Party will decide, surveys will decide, the criteria would be merit.”
Harish Chaudhary, while responding to a question on the CM face, said, “Every citizen of Punjab is the CM face. We will go forward with the credibility of Punjab Congress leadership”.
To a question on alliance with any party for the polls, Chaudhary said that at this point of time, there were no talks on alliance. He, however, said the party was open to like-minded parties which have the vision to take Punjab and ‘Punjabiyat’ forward.
Responding to a question, Sidhu said six months ago he had said that electricity tariff should be reduced. “The one who did not reduce had to go and the one who reduced is there,” he said, in an apparent reference to the ouster of Capt Amarinder Singh as CM. He added that what “did not happen in the four-and-the-half-year rule happened in three-and-a- half-month’s time. Asserting that “our effort is to supplement the state’s revenue with income”, he added, “There is life beyond March 2020”.
He also said that it was not appropriate to blame the finance minister alone since “there is collective responsibility”.
On the promises made after the change of guard in the Congress government, Sidhu said, “We have an opportunity to win over the trust of the people. It is the responsibility to fulfil what we said two months ago. People will judge us on performance and not on talks”.
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