Amarinder Singh Ministry reels under Congress feud again

Ministers, MLAs siding with the Chief Minister or Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu slug it out.

August 24, 2021 05:27 pm | Updated November 22, 2021 09:42 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Punjab Congress Committee president Navjot Singh Sidhu during a meeting with Punjab Chief Mibnister Amarinder Singh.

Punjab Congress Committee president Navjot Singh Sidhu during a meeting with Punjab Chief Mibnister Amarinder Singh.

The Congress high command’s efforts to resolve issues in the party’s Punjab unit have failed to yield the desired results as the crisis only deepened further on Tuesday, after factions supporting Chief Minister Captain (Retd.) Amarinder Singh and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Navjot Singh Sidhu spoke out against each other.

On the one hand, four Ministers and over two dozen MLAs openly came out against Capt. Amarinder’s leadership. On the other, taking exception to the “anti-national” and “pro-Pakistan” comments of two of Mr. Sidhu’s aides, Malwinder Mali and Payre Lal Garg, a group of Punjab Congress Ministers and MLAs called for strong legal action against them.

Raising the baton against Capt. Amarinder in a meeting held here, four Ministers, including Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Bajwa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria and Charanjit Channi, apart from close to two dozen MLAs, expressed lack of faith in the leadership of the Chief Minister in fulfilling the party’s 2017 Assembly election promises.

“We have lost faith in his [the CM’s] leadership. There are certain issues for which we have been fighting for a while now. It’s all about those issues, which are not settled, be it the Bargari sacrilege, curbing the drugs and transport mafias, etc.. All these issues relate to the previous Akali Dal government, which have not yet been addressed. We earlier appraised the Central leadership about these issues, after which an 18-point programme was released to resolve them. But the Chief Minister is only attempting to kill time and doing nothing on the ground. Each passing day is critical as we are inching towards the Assembly elections,” Mr. Channi told The Hindu .

After the meeting it was decided that a five-member delegation would meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and appraise her about the situation and their demands.

“A consensus among us emerged and we decided that if the Chief Minister doesn’t want to work, he should step down. To raise this demand and convey our sentiments, we have sought time from the high command. We are going to meet AICC (All India Congress Committee) in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat tomorrow in Dehradun and then decide further,” he said.

After the meeting, Mr. Sidhu tweeted: “Got a call from Tripat Bajwa ji asking for an emergency meeting... Met him along with other colleagues at the PPCC office. Will appraise the high command of the situation.”

Amid a power tussle between Capt. Amarinder and Mr Sidhu, the AICC had on July 18 appointed Mr. Sidhu as president of the PPCC in an apparent attempt to resolve the crisis. Capt. Amarinder and Mr. Sidhu have been at at loggerheads since the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

Meanwhile, hitting out at Mr. Sidhu’s aides, Mr. Mali and Mr. Garg, State Ministers Brahm Mohindra, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, along with MLA Raj Kumar Verka, said: “Statements by both these newly appointed advisors of Punjab Congress president Navjot Sidhu are clearly against India’s interests and detrimental to national security.”

Besides stringent legal action against Mr. Mali and Mr. Garg, these leaders also urged the Congress national leadership to direct Mr. Sidhu to immediately rein in his aides in the interest of the party as well as the country. “The Congress has made many sacrifices for the protection of the nation’s security and peace, as have our soldiers at the borders. Nobody can or should be allowed to undermine these sacrifices and jeopardise the safety of our country and its people,” they emphasised, citing, in particular, the grave implications such statements could have for the border State of Punjab.

Congress leaders also questioned Mr. Sidhu’s failure to put his foot down on the diatribe by his close aides, despite the “justified uproar it has triggered across party lines”. Mr. Sidhu’s omission in this regard had given ammunition to Opposition parties, which were quick to recall the PPCC’s chief’s personal bonhomie with the Pakistan Prime Minister and Army chief, they pointed out, warning against the “massive damage this could cause to the Congress in the run-up to the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls”, which are due in less than six months.

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