Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab Congress chief, party crisis in State deepens
Amarinder Singh reaches Delhi, triggering speculation of a possible meeting between him and senior BJP leaders.
The Congress’ crises in Punjab spiralled further on September 28 with State Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu resigning from his post, Minister Razia Sultana quitting her post in support of him and some other leaders too coming out in his support. And former Chief Minister and Congress leader Captain (retd.) Amarinder Singh reached Delhi on a two-day visit, triggering speculation of a possible meeting between him and senior BJP leaders. He, however, said he was on a personal visit to Delhi.
Mr. Sidhu resigned, saying he can’t compromise on Punjab’s future and its welfare agenda. He, however, didn’t state any reason in his resignation letter. On Twitter, posting his resignation letter addressed to party president Sonia Gandhi, he said, “The collapse of man’s character stems from the compromise corner, I can never compromise on Punjab’s future and agenda of welfare of Punjab. Therefore, I hereby resign as the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Will continue to serve the Congress”.
In New Delhi, Capt. Amarinder said Mr. Sidhu’s resignation proved beyond doubt that the cricketer-turned-politician was an “unstable” man, who could not be relied upon to lead the party, especially in a border State like Punjab. He termed Mr. Sidhu’s resignation a “sheer drama”. The move suggested that his former Cabinet colleague was preparing the ground to quit the Congress and join hands with some other party, he alleged. “By resigning within two months of taking over as the PPCC chief, Navjot had once again exhibited his shifty character,” he observed.
To a question if Mr. Sidhu was apparently upset with the inclusion of certain Ministers in the Charanjit Singh Channi Cabinet, Capt. Amarinder said the PPCC chief apparently wanted to run the government by remote control. The party’s central leadership should immediately accept his resignation.
Allocation of portfolios
Mr. Sidhu made his resignation announcement hours after portfolios were allocated by Mr. Channi, His suggestions on ‘choices of bureaucrats and ministers’ were allegedly overruled by the party leadership.
A close aide of Mr. Sidhu told The Hindu that he was miffed at the reinduction of Rana Gurjit Singh in the Cabinet. Rana Gurjit, MLA from Kapurthala, faced allegations of involvement in a sand mining scam and quit from the Capt. Amarinder’s Cabinet in 2018. He was given a clean chit by an inquiry commission headed by a former High Court judge. Also, the appointment of senior advocate A. P. S Deol as Advocate General was another reason for Mr. Sidhu’s decision, the close aide stated. Mr. Deol was counsel for former Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini, an accused in the Behbal Kalan police firing case of 2015. It is related to the Bargari sacrilege issue, which has been a political flashpoint in the State politics.
An ‘embarrassment’ for Congress
Mr. Sidhu’s resignation is being seen as a major ‘embarrassment’ for the party’s central leadership, including its former president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi.
Amid a power tussle between Capt. Amarinder and Mr. Sidhu, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on July 18 appointed the latter as PCC chief and later the ‘high command’ cornered Capt. Amarinder into resigning from his post and making it amply clear that the coming election would be contested under Mr. Sidhu. However, Mr. Channi, as a surprise pick, was later chosen to lead the government.
MLA Sukhpal Khaira has urged Mr. Sidhu to reconsider his resignation. He said, “As Punjab is heading for elections in the next 4-5 months, it is highly imperative to find an amicable solution to the crisis emanating from the deadlock between the party high command and Mr. Sidhu. Even if the party had to take back a few decisions to address the concerns raised by him, it will only strengthen the Congress in the State.”
AAP, SAD hit out at Congress
Opposition parties took the opportunity to hit out at the Congress.
AAP Punjab president and Lok Sabha member Bhagwant Mann said the Congress had crossed all limits in the battle for chair and pride. “Punjab has never been so disgraced. The appetite for their chair can embarrass anyone. I pray to God to rid Punjab and Punjabis of these chair-hungry Congressmen.”
Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader S Bikram Singh Majithia described Mr. Sidhu’s resignation as “the ultimate expression of frustrations of an egoist seeing his path to the post of Chief Minister blocked by a leader from the scheduled castes.”
He said, “Things have not played to Mr. Sidhu’s script, and he is unable to live with not being made the Congress’s Chief Minister face in the coming polls. Mr. Sidhu now realises that the game is up for him as for as his chief ministerial ambitions are concerned. Hence, this anger and frustration.”