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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Warring factions gun for each other as tumult in Punjab Congress grows

The meeting holds significance after Randhawa and Navjot Sidhu buried the hatchet and held a meeting recently.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 11, 2021 10:10:21 am
CM Amarinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Partap Singh Bajwa

It was a day of hectic political activity within the Punjab Congress that saw leaders of warring factions holding meetings and attacking each other Monday. Five Congress leaders — Rajya Sabha MP Partap Bajwa, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Ravneet Bittu and Cabinet Ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Charanjeet Singh Channi — huddled up at Randhawa’s residence in Chandigarh on Monday “to devise a strategy to bring Congress back into power in 2021”.

The meeting holds significance after Randhawa and Navjot Sidhu buried the hatchet and held a meeting recently.

Interestingly, CM’s Advisor BIS Chahal went to Randhawa’s house both before and after Monday’s meeting to placate the minister.

Speaking about the meeting, Ravneet Bittu said, “Chahal did come to meet Randhawa. The CM has been conveyed through him that we want the SIT (on post-sacrilege police firing case) to give its report in a month instead of six months and also that the SIT members should immediately be sent to Faridkot and the investigation should begin.”

Bajwa added, “We discussed how to prompt the government on getting the firing case investigated within a month. Also, we discussed how the officers handed over the SIT have not yet reached Faridkot.”

A party leader, who was also a part of the meeting, said, “We are already getting a lot of support. Now, we have leader of Congress in Lok Sabha also. We discussed how to get the Congress back in Punjab next year. Otherwise, we will be decimated.”

As the day ended, Channi decided to call a meeting of Dalit MLAs at his residence in Chandigarh on Tuesday. He had invited all Dalit MLAs in the state to attend it so that they can become a pressure group.

In the middle of all this, party leaders Navjot Singh Sidhu and Partap Bajwa attacked the CM over the issue, even as three Cabinet ministers — Brahm Mohindra, Sunder Sham Arora and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot – returned fire by imploring the Congress high command to act tough against Sidhu.

Attacking the CM on Twitter, Sidhu wrote: “Nefarious intentions are evident. No High Court stopped you in 4-1/2 yrs! When DGP/CPS appointments are set aside, orders are challenged in higher courts in matter of hours. Now, first you attack the High Court, then from backdoor accept same orders to deflect People’s attention.”

He was referring to Punjab government’s statement on Sunday that it was after HC orders that they had given six months to the SIT to investigate Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing.

Bajwa too took on the CM by attacking his Advocate General Atul Nanda. In a series of tweets, he said: “I have consistently been raising the issue of the incompetence of the AG to Captain Amarinder Singh. For the benefit of the state and to safeguard the image of the INC, it is essential to remove the albatross from around the government’s neck and remove Atul Nanda from his post as Advocate General of Punjab.”

He added: “He has repeatedly shirked his duty, especially with regards to the sacrilege cases. He has continuously been hiring special counsels from New Delhi at high costs to the public exchequer. The continued failures in important cases has led to public questioning his competence for the job.”

Pointing out that son of Krishan Bhagwan Singh, who was killed in police firing at Behbal Kalan in 2015, has declared that he will not cooperate with the new SIT since the AG failed to present the case properly in court, Bajwa said: “The fact that families of victims have started speaking out against the AG and have begun to refuse to help the SIT shows the serious lack of faith the citizens have with the AG in this most important fight for justice. We have reached a crossroads both in the state and the party. The AG must be removed if the Government wishes to truly rebuild bridges with the public.”

Meanwhile, terming Sidhu’s attack against CM as an act of gross indiscipline and an attempt to undermine the Congress government in the state, there Punjab ministers said the MLA’s personal attack on Amarinder was an anti-party act, which called for immediate disciplinary action.

In a joint statement, Cabinet ministers Brahm Mohindra, Sunder Sham Arora and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot said: “Sidhu’s recent spate of comments against the Chief Minister could no longer be dismissed as the rant of a disgruntled member of a democratic political party.” Adding that this open rebellion was damaging the interests of the Congress at a time when Assembly elections in the state were less than a year away, they added: “Failure to take action against Sidhu now could trigger unrest in the party’s state unit, which would be fatal for the party, which had suffered major electoral blows in the recently concluded Assembly polls in five states.

The ministers said it was more than evident now that Sidhu’s intentions were nefarious and motivated by his vested personal and political interests.

The dubbed Sidhu’s aggressive posturing on the social media as an attempt by the disgruntled MLA to pressurise the high command into succumbing to his unreasonable demands.

Pointing out that the CM had made several overtures in recent past to resolve any perceived differences on Sidhu’s part, the ministers said it was clear that the latter did not want to be placated but only wanted to score political brownie points to further his personal ambitions.

They appealed to the party’s central leadership to nip this insurgence in the bud so that the Congress does not lose out on the electoral advantage it has in Punjab and ends up losing a winning battle.

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