Factional feud Other States

Congress goes into damage control over Punjab

A worker arranges a billboard with a picture of Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu in Amritsar on June 17, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Amid growing tensions between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, top Congress leaders, including former party president Rahul Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, held back-to-back meetings on Tuesday to resolve the crisis.

Captain Amarinder Singh (retd.), who met the All India Congress Committee (AICC) panel headed by Mr. Kharge for the second time for over three hours, is learnt to have been told by the party leaders that grievances of the MLAs need to be resolved, and the party must present a united face for the 2022 Assembly poll.

“Everybody has said that they will fight the poll together, and the party is united under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” Mr. Kharge told a news agency after meeting the Punjab Chief Minister.

AICC general secretary in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat and former MP J.P. Aggarwal were the other members of the panel who attended the meeting Captain Amarinder.

The panel is said to have taken note of the comments made by Mr Sidhu in the media, especially at a time when the high command was working towards resoling the differences between different factions in Punjab.

Sources said that the AICC panel is said to have indicated that there would soon be changes in the Punjab unit and the Chief Minister needs to make himself accessible to all sections of the party

Separately, Mr Gandhi met over a dozen leaders from Punjab in the past two days including Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Sunil Jakhar, Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa and Punjab legislator Pargat Singh and Lok Sabha member Ravneet Singh Bittu.

“Rahul Gandhi ji met more than 4 leaders yesterday and would be meeting more than nine today. Everyone is putting across their views before him and the main issue if how do we approach the 2022 Assembly elections. Everyone is talking about what kind of reforms that we need to do before election and every party does this six months before the elections,” Mr. Bittu told reporters after meeting Mr Gandhi.

“Being a border and minority State, Punjab is being discussed at the highest level. Things will be set right within a week and the voices that are coming out now, they will be addressed within a week. There will be a new team as well as old people and Capt. Amarinder Singh will work smoothly under the supervision of the high command,” he added.

While there is no clarity if or when Mr Sidhu will be politically rehabilitated, sources say that the Punjab Chief Minister is under pressure from his MLAs to deliver.

In their meetings with Mr Gandhi, several MLAs are learnt to have raised issues such as the sand mining mafia and transport mafia in Punjab, concessions in electricity bills and public anger over the 2015 sacrilege issue.

“The Chief Minister briefed us on actions that he has taken on some issue as well as assured us of the action that his government is going to take,” an AICC panel member said.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 6:51:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/congress-goes-into-damage-control-over-punjab/article34918929.ece

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