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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Captain clears way for Sidhu, but with caveat: will meet him only after his apology

However, the crisis in Punjab Congress is far from over as the Chief Minister refused to meet Sidhu until he publicly apologised for posting what he called “derogatory” tweets against him.

Written by Manoj CG, Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh, New Delhi |
Updated: July 18, 2021 7:19:21 am
Senior Congress leader Harish Rawat during the meeting with with Captain Amarinder Singh in Chandigarh on Saturday. (PTI)

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reiterated Saturday that he will abide by any decision of Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the appointment of the state Congress chief thus clearing the decks for announcement of Navjot Singh Sidhu as the PPCC president.

But the crisis in Punjab Congress is far from over as the Chief Minister refused to meet Sidhu until he publicly apologised for posting what he called “derogatory” tweets against him.

The Congress high command had not been able to announce Sidhu’s appointment because of stiff opposition from the Chief Minister.

AICC general secretary in charge Harish Rawat flew to Chandigarh on a state government chopper and discussed the issue with the Chief Minister essentially to assuage him and indicate that the CM is being taken into confidence and that the appointment will be done with his approval.

But Rawat was only partially successful as he could not make the Chief Minister and Sidhu meet for the token “all-is-well” photograph.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu meets Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar at his residence in Panchkula, Haryana, on Saturday. (PTI)

Tipped to be appointed as PCC chief, Sidhu met former state Congress presidents including incumbent Sunil Jakhar and Partap Singh Bajwa, a Rajya Sabha MP, ostensibly to seek their guidance. He also met many MLAs and leaders.

Sources said the CM told Rawat he was not happy with the way the high command had handled the issue of appointment of the PPCC chief. He is learnt to have pointed out that premature announcements were made and stories were “leaked.” He is also learnt to have expressed his displeasure over the way the Mallikarjun Kharge panel was formed and how several leaders were encouraged to make noises undermining him.

Importantly, Rawat urged Amarinder to meet Sidhu but the Chief Minister refused saying he will meet him only after he apologised.

In a string of tweets in May, Sidhu had hit out at the CM mincing few words. On May 1, he shared a 2016 video clip in which Amarinder is heard “promising to act against the Badals” in the 2015 police firing incident at Faridkot if voted to power. Sidhu said, “Big Boast, Small Roast. Big Outcry, No Outcome.”

On May 9, Sidhu tweeted that the “consensus” among MLA was that “Badal Sarkar is ruling in lieu of Congress Govt,” and that the “Govt run not for welfare of the People, but for continuing control of Mafia Raj.” Nine days later, he tweeted: “…everyone who speaks the truth becomes your enemy. Thus, you threaten your party colleagues, exhibiting your fear & insecurity.”

Rawat tried to put up a brave face: “We both are old friends. I am fortunate that I am the general secretary in charge of such a state having Captain Sahib as the Chief Minister. We had a wonderful discussion. He had some concerns. Unke meri samajh se oonche kuch sawal the. (He had some questions which are beyond my comprehension) But one thing is clear from the statement that Captain sahib had given earlier that he will abide by the CP’s decision. He repeated that statement today also.”

Sources said Rawat apprised the Chief Minister of the party’s decision to appoint Sidhu as PCC president. The two discussed the appointment of working presidents too. These working presidents will be of the CM’s choice.

Rawat later tweeted. “I have just returned to Delhi after meeting Amarinder Singhji. I am glad that a lot of the things that are being discussed in the public domain have been proven to be baseless and Captain Sahib has reiterated his important statement… Thank you Captain for your great statement.”

Sidhu, on the other hand, spent the day in Chandigarh. He called on Jakhar in the morning. Later he visited several ministers including Balbir Sidhu, Sukhjinder Randhawa and Gurpreet Kangar and Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh. He is learnt to have told these leaders that he may or may not be named the PPCC chief but he just wanted their support.

He was accompanied by several MLAs including Darshan Brar, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Barindermeet Pahda, and Kulbir Zira. On Friday, he met Rajya Sabha MPs and former PPCC presidents Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo in Delhi.

Sidhu’s team is preparing for a massive show of strength after the expected announcement about his appointment. He is likely to visit Golden Temple and Durgiana Mandir in Amritsar. Subsequently, he will take out a rally from Amritsar and pass through Hussainiwala and Khatkar Kalan, two historical places associated with martyr Bhagat Singh. He is also planning to halt at Bargari, the epicentre of sacrilege politics in Punjab and a flashpoint between him and the CM.

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