Former Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu will be in jail for at least two more months, even if he manages to get all three remissions. But already, his possible release and speculation that he may be given an important role in the party are making several Congress leaders uncomfortable.
The disquiet has arisen from the reports that AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had recently sent a communique to Sidhu in jail through an aide. The Congress camp is abuzz that Sidhu may be given an important role within the party after his release. The fuel to this fire came from none other than Sidhu’s media advisor Surinder Dalla, who tweeted two days ago, “After Sidhu’s return from jail, Mission 2024 would be unveiled and a fight for the rights of Punjab would start. Punjab is still at the same point from where Sidhu wanted to pull it out with the help of his Punjab Model. Punjab’s engine needs to change.”
Sidhu’s 13-point ‘Punjab Model’, which he had posted on Twitter in the run up to the February Assembly polls, focuses on governance reforms, income generation, women’s empowerment, healthcare, teacher’s issues, industry, law and order, entrepreneurship, digital governance, environment, farmer’s issues and social issues, including NRI welfare.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was quick to say that the Congress was doomed in Punjab even before the 2022 elections, “Do we need more by giving responsibility to Sidhu?”
An aide of Sidhu told The Indian Express that the former cricketer was not interested in contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, but he would certainly work for the party and strengthen it after his release. “You will see Sidhu as a completely changed man, who will display immense patience. The conviction has changed him to a large extent. Just wait and watch. Everything will be in front of your eyes,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
“He will be stronger as the opposition. The party needs a strong leader. He will prove to be one. Punjab is in bad shape. The government also needs such opposition,” said a Congress leader supporting Sidhu.
However, there are many others who are wary. “What did Sidhu do when he was made the PPCC chief? The Congress had a golden opportunity for re-election. But there was so much of infighting, and Sidhu was forever opposing his own party’s government,” said a senior Congress leader.
He added that Sidhu was still not changed, “He is not meeting most Congress leaders in jail. They only wanted to meet him to express solidarity. But he refused to meet them. Is this the way? What will he do when he comes out?”