A day after former Cabinet minister and Amritsar MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu appeared on the Congress’s stage in the presence of former AICC president Rahul Gandhi, he did a vanishing act on Monday, fuelling speculation that he was not looking at a future for himself in the Congress.
The Congress camp was divided on his absence as a few leaders said that except Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar, all other party leaders were asked to participate only for a single day. There were others who said that Sidhu’s speech at the Congress stage at Moga on Sunday and his taking on Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa publicly, gave out his mind that he was not interested in staying with the party.
AICC general secretary and Punjab affairs incharge Harish Rawat, who had left no stone unturned to ensure Sidhu’s presence in the party programme, told The Indian Express they sought his presence only for a day.
“Sidhu ji was busy. He could spare only a day for us. But now, after seeing his demand among the people of the state, we have requested him to participate on Tuesday too. I am trying that he spares another day out of his busy schedule and joins us. He will join us tomorrow.”
He said, “Sidhu is a popular leader. His commitment for Punjab and Congress is unquestionable. We have a big role for him in the party in the coming days.”
Allaying speculation that Sidhu’s demand that the state government should pay MSP to farmers had left the Congress leaders upset, Rawat said, “There was nothing like that. He and CM are on the same page as far as MSP is concerned. Just that Captain Sahib is a CM and he has to consider many factors before making any announcement. The CM also feels the same like Sidhu. But he was telling us that the state does not have the kind of money required to pay the farmers as MSP. The CM told us he is finding a way. He has already set up a legal committee. I was also discussing this issue with him. The CM has not taken otherwise the point raised by Sidhu.”
Sources said that Rahul was impressed with the response Sidhu got at the stage on Sunday. “I can say that it was a tremendous response to him. There were so many speakers. Nobody got that kind of response,” a leader, privy to discussions with Rahul, said on anonymity. He added that Sidhu wanted to leave after Jagraon rally. “But Rahul got him conveyed that he should tag along till the last programme on Sunday. Sidhu also stayed on.”
If Sidhu joins the Congress protest on Tuesday, it would lay all speculation and conjectures to rest. The Congress has been watching and debating as to how the high command would give Sidhu a role when Amarinder has put his foot down. He has already said that a four-year-old leader in the party cannot be made a PPCC chief.
Sidhu has always praised Rahul and has even called him his “Captain”. During the Lok Sabha election, he hurt his throat by vociferously campaigning for Rahul. But his absence from the stage on Monday has raised many eyebrows that he was no more keen to join a programme in the presence of Rahul too. All eyes are now on his presence or absence at Tuesday’s function.
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