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Sidhu announced new punjab congress chief: A Sunday of cat and mouse in Delhi, Punjab

Amarinder and his bête noire and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa seemed to have joined hands to stall Sidhu’s elevation, holding meetings late Saturday and on Sunday afternoon.

Written by Manoj C G , Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh, New Delhi |
Updated: July 19, 2021 3:14:07 am
Navjot Singh Sidhu meets Punjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Jalalpur MLA Madan Lal at Ghanaur. (Photo: Harmeet Sodhi)

The official announcement appointing Navjot Singh Sidhu as the Punjab PCC chief came after a day of tensions, with him and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh both trying to drum up support against each other.

Amarinder and his bête noire and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa seemed to have joined hands to stall Sidhu’s elevation, holding meetings late Saturday and on Sunday afternoon.

Bajwa also held a meeting of all the Congress Lok Sabha MPs at his residence, where they resolved to oppose Sidhu’s appointment. While Bajwa said he was not in the race for Chief Minister or PCC president, a post he has occupied in the past, the anti-Sidhu camp was said to be propping up his name with Amarinder’s tacit blessings. Bajwa tweeted after the meeting though that they had talked about farmers’ issues.

Besides, 10 MLAs from the pro-Amarinder camp (out of the Congress’s 80 in the House), including three AAP-turned-Congress leaders, released a statement asking the high command not to “let down” the CM and backed his demand that Sidhu should tender a public apology for posting “numerous tweets” against him. While admitting Sidhu was a celebrity and “no doubt an asset to the party”, they said his “condemning and criticising his own party and government in the public view has only created a rift in the cadres and weakened it”.

They hoped the high command would “definitely keep in mind the status, contribution and background of Captain Amarinder Singh in mind while making vital decisions for the party”.

Simultaneously, incumbent Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar called a meeting of district Congress presidents and MLAs Monday, saying it would send a signal that they stood with the high command. Jakhar said the meeting was called at his initiative and not at the central leadership’s behest. The meeting was cancelled after Sidhu’s appointment.

Some of the MPs who attended the meeting at Bajwa’s residence confirmed receiving calls from Sonia Gandhi, including Shamsher Singh Dullo. “I told her that if two Jat Sikh leaders (Amarinder and Sidhu) occupy top positions in the Congress, what will the Dalits feel?”

The other MPs present at the Bajwa meeting included Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, Manish Tewari (said to be among the PCC chief hopefuls), Ravneet Singh Bittu, Jasbir Singh Gill, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Amar Singh, Mohammad Sadique and Santokh Singh Chaudhary. Rajya Sabha MP from the state Ambika Soni stayed away.

One of the MPs told The Indian Express — before news came of Sidhu’s appointment — that they expected the high command to not impose a president on the state unit.

However, other senior leaders like Amarinder’s Cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and former Union minister Ashwani Kumar advised partymen to line up behind the high command. Tript Rajinder, who had earlier backed Amarinder against Sindhu, urged the CM to “forget Sidhu’s tweets like he had forgotten Partap (Bajwa)’s tweets and letters of last four and half years”.

Ashwani Kumar advised partymen to “gracefully” accept the decision of the high command to appoint Sidhu in the interest of unity. “There are no victors or losers. Reconciliation is the way forward .All Congress persons will, hopefully, have a role to play in fighting an ideological battle… It is necessary to ensure that no one feels diminished.”

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