An indication by the Congress high command that it is set to appoint Navjot Singh Sidhu, one of the main detractors of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Congress, roiled the party in the election-bound state on Thursday.
Sources close to Amarinder said he was unhappy, and had conveyed to the high command that he would not go into the Assembly elections with Sidhu as PCC chief.
By evening, clarifications and denials were issued by both AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab Harish Rawat and the CM — it was, however, clear that the tussle in the state Congress had only worsened, and tensions had escalated.
Rawat rushed to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi around 7.30 pm, and subsequently claimed he had never said that Sidhu was being appointed PCC president.
Sources, however, said that Rawat’s office had even prepared a statement announcing Sidhu’s appointment
“Mujhse question kiya gaya ki kya woh (Sidhu) honge, toh maine kaha koi bhi faisla…aap jo kah rahe hain iske chaaron taraf hi hoga. Abi kai logistic ends hain jinko jo hai jodna hai,” Rawat told reporters after meeting Gandhi.
He will now travel to Chandigarh on Friday to meet the Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister’s media advisor Raveen Thukral, meanwhile, tweeted that “media reports of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh resigning are humbug. He has neither quit nor offered to do so. He’ll lead the Congress in Punjab to victory in 2022 Assembly polls as he did in 2017. Urge media to stop speculating and spreading misinformation.”
A spokesperson for Amarinder said the CM had already said that he would be upset if Sidhu was made the PPCC chief, and had conveyed to the party that it would be a disastrous step. The decision was then left to the high command, the spokesperson said.
Sources said that before meeting Gandhi, Rawat had made an attempt to pacify Amarinder by calling and telling him that he had not said anything about making Sidhu the PCC chief.
However, according to the sources, by evening the Chief Minister went into a huddle with many Ministers, MPs and MLAs of his camp at his farmhouse in Siswan near Mohali. Sidhu too, was learnt to have met some Ministers and leaders close to him at state Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa’s residence.
The meetings indicated that neither of the sides was ready to give in easily.
Several Congress leaders who are considered close to Amarinder told The Indian Express on Thursday that a “revolt” was “brewing” in the state unit, and there would be an “explosion” if Sidhu was made PCC chief. “The party will break,” one leader said.
Sources said the announcement of Sidhu’s appointment was expected anytime as Rawat’s office had even sent a copy of the statement to Sidhu for vetting. In the face of protests by several leaders, however, the party has now decided that Rawat will fly to Chandigarh by chopper on Friday to meet the Chief Minister.
“The high command wants to take the CM into confidence. He is a senior leader of the party and if Sidhu is to be made PPCC chief, the general secretary in charge should pay him a personal visit and inform him about the development,” a source said.
Sources said Gandhi summoned Rawat amid indications that things could go out of control. It is learnt that Rawat’s interview to a television channel during which he indirectly indicated that Sidhu could be the PPCC chief had not gone down well with the high command.
“They feel that Rawat should have let the AICC make the announcement by taking senior party leaders on board,” a source said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.