Former AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Punjab for participating in a tractor rally and efforts of general secretary incharge Harish Rawat to ensure former Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s presence at the party show, could not bridge the gap between him and the Punjab Congress.
While Sidhu appeared at the party’s show, wearing a maroon salwar-kurta and a black turban, and was given a special treatment at the behest of the party high command, neither the state Congress leaders nor Sidhu exhibited any softness towards each other.
Camping in Chandigarh and Punjab for last many day, Rawat paid special attention to Sidhu, called him “future” of the state Congress, went to Amritsar to meet him two days ago and went to the extent of coming to Moga along with him after having breakfast at his residence on Sunday. The party high command did not stop here. Rawat ensured that he was given time to speak and was the first speaker at the Badhani Kalan rally from where Rahul kick-started his three-day programme. He was made to sit in the front row while the Cabinet ministers sat in the second row in the public rally. Except Sukhjinder Randhawa, who was the incharge of the rally and was conducting the stage, no other Cabinet minister was allowed to speak.
Neither Amarinder nor PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar mentioned Sidhu’s name during their address and Sidhu named Jakhar and Amarinder towards the end of his speech. Rahul acknowledged him among the leaders present during his speech.
Sources said Sidhu’s name was not there among the speakers till the last minute when Rawat intervened and got him listed. Sidhu remarked, “Bhaji, aj na rok. Ghode nu ishara hi kaafi hunda hai. Lattan kisse hor nu mar lavin. Pehlan vi bithai rakheya si. (Brother, do not stop me today. A horse just needs a gesture. You can kick someone else. You had not let me speak earlier too).” Sidhu was referring to a rally at Bargari when Randhawa was the incharge and Sidhu was not given time to speak.
Sidhu’s address at the rally posed a challenge to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh when he asked the state government to find a way and ensure MSP for the crops of the farmers. His remark that “Punjab sardar jimmewari lave, sarkaaran pith dikhaun vaste nahi hundiya,” and also that if the state was procuring milk and Himachal Pradesh was procuring apple crop then why could not the Punjab government procure the farmers’ crops, evoked reactions from the Congress.
While political observers believe that Sidhu is setting his political agenda asking the state for “self-dependence”, many Congress leaders have reacted to his address. “Our party’s narrative was against the Centre and he has given another narrative to the farmers asking the state government to provide MSP. The HP government procures apples worth Rs 500 crore. And MSP of wheat and paddy in Punjab is Rs 60,000 crore. Is it possible to provide this type of money? The state does not have resources,” a minister said.
During the tractor rally, Sidhu sat next to Harish Rawat on a tractor right behind the tractor where Rahul and CM sat. He was, however, not among the speakers at the other two public rallies.
BAJWA, DULLO MISSING
Rajya Sabha leader Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo were both absent at the party’s programme. Rawat told the media that he had called both of them and they would be participating on Monday.
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