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Sidhu tightens grip on Punjab Cong, appoints comrade-in-arms Pargat Singh general secy

By getting Pargat, a two-time MLA, appointed as party general secretary, Sidhu has only fortified his hold on the state Congress unit, in which his associates and confidants are now holding the key positions.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
August 17, 2021 8:32:36 am
Both of them have remained vocal critics of CM Amarinder Singh (File)

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday appointed his close associate and Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh as PPCC general secretary, organisation.

“With the approval of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, AICC general secretary, organisation, KC Venugopal and Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat, I hereby appoint Pargat Singh as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary, organisation, with immediate effect,” Sidhu said in a tweet.
The move comes five days after Sidhu appointed Lok Sabha member Dr Amar Singh, retired IPS officer Mohammad Mustafa, Dr Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Singh Mali as his advisers to seek their “wise counsel” on party affairs. While Mustafa declined the offer, Mali landed into a controversy over his social media against Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

By getting Pargat, a two-time MLA, appointed as party general secretary, Sidhu has only fortified his hold on the state Congress unit, in which his associates and confidants are now holding the key positions.

A former captain of the Indian national hockey team, Pargat Singh, in more ways than one, shares the wavelength with Navjot Singh Sidhu as far as their brand of politics is concerned.

They share a bond that goes back to the time they used to play for India – Pargat in hockey and Sidhu in cricket. They both had joined the Congress ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls – Pargat, after quitting the Shiromani Akali Dal had joined, the Congress with Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, then a BJP MLA, in November 2016. The cricketer-turned-politician, who was then a BJP MP, had followed suit a few day later.

Both of them have remained vocal critics of CM Amarinder Singh for not “failing to take to their logical end issues such as cases pertaining to Bargari sacrilege and Kotkapura police firing deaths, drug menace, mining mafia, farmers’ issues, and power purchase agreements signed by the previous SAD-BJP government”.

It has been a steady climb in the political echelons for the plain speaking Pargat, who took the political plunge with the 2012 Assembly elections when Akali Dal gave him the ticket from Jalandhar Cantt.

Ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, Sidhu had formed a new political front – Awaz-e-Punjab – Pargat, who at that time was suspended by the SAD, and Independent MLAs Simrajit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains, had put up poster of the front in on his WhatsApp profile and Facebook page.

Written in Punjabi, the poster read, “Saddi jung ohna takatan virudh, jihna ne Punjab nu barbaad kita (Our fight is against forces that have ruined Punjab)”.

Pargat was the only Congress MLA from Jalandhar who supported a demolition drive launched in the district in 2018 by the then Local Bodies Minister Sidhu against the illegal buildings and colonies. The other three party MLAs – from Jalandhar West, Jalandhar Central and Jalandhar North – were against the drive.

Pargat is known for his plain-speaking, which has made many in the ruling dispensation red-faced.
In 2018, a year after Congress assumed power, Pargat had claimed that that “there was a huge corruption in the municipal corporation”. He had asked officials to tell him about political pressure behind “doing illegal work”.

Just like Sidhu, Pargat has never hesitated taking a direct dig at the CM. Earlier, during a revolt among the party leaders on the issue of excise policy, Pargat asked CM to call a meeting of Congress Legislative Party (CLP) in which a discussion on the functioning of the three years of party government must be held along with self-actualization.

As an Akali Dal MLA, he had dared to take a stand the CM Badal on the issue of setting up of a solid waste management project in Jalandhar Cantt constituency, a pet Project of the SAD-BJP government.
However, a sneak peek into his past reflects one aspect – his outbursts against his party government – then SAD and now Congress – was never sudden or for the sake of politics. While canvassing during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Pargat left his own party leaders surprised and shocked when he said money power and muscle power were ruling the politics and it was high time people with clean image joined politics. He also said that leaders move in helicopters and and hardly have any knowledge of ground realities.

Before joining SAD, he was posted as a Superintendent of Police (SP) in the Punjab Police. He won the election. Considering his experience, Pargat was eyeing the post of chief parliamentary secretary (Sports), but Akali Dal handed that job to party MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu, who had no experience in the field of sports. Parkash Singh Badal, the then chief minister, offered him the post of CPS in 2016, but Pargat refused as it came too late and at a time when not even a year was left for the polls.
He then joined Congress and retained the Jalandhar Cantt seat in 2017 polls.

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