Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has left Delhi after two days without any meeting with INC chief Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, sources in the party said. The party, however, has made it clear that Singh will stay.
Efforts will continue to resolve party leaders’ grievances against Singh, politicians of the INC said. The three-member panel formed by Sonia Gandhi to resolve the infighting in the Punjab Congress unit, which has set off a crisis ahead of next year’s assembly elections, will continue meeting leaders.
A faction in the state unit of the INC has recently objected to the leadership of Amarinder Singh, citing the Punjab government’s inaction in cases of sacrilege, under-representation of Dalits in the government and the inaccessibility of the chief minister due to his coterie.
But the party has stressed the need for unity, pointing to the state elections due next year.
A replacement for the party’s state unit chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar, known for his differences with the chief minister, is on the cards. Sources indicated Navjot Sidhu or a Dalit face could replace Jakhar.
The INC leadership has asked Amarinder Singh to take action on a host of issues including the crackdown on the sand and transport mafia, reworking the power purchase agreements and reducing power bills, the sacrilege issue, ensuring the Scheduled Castes are properly represented and their grievances looked into.
The leadership believes once this is addressed, it will help Navjot Sidhu get a face saver and say he has spoken for the people and is ready to work for the INC.
Asked whether the Gandhis’ gesture was a snub for the chief minister when the need of the hour was a show of support, party sources said Singh has met the panel, had lunch and also met senior party leader Ambika Soni.
Asked whether the panel will call INC MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been at loggerheads with Singh, for a meeting, INC general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs, Harish Rawat said, “My answer is yes”.
The panel members said theirs was a fact finding report and that they have been asking Sidhu for a meeting, but he has said that would only meet the Gandhis. Sources said the panel has nearly completed its exercise.
Sidhu had launched a fresh attack on Amarinder Singh after the state government suffered a legal setback in a 2015 case involving the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, an emotive issue in Punjab. He had also criticised the Chief Minister over the state cabinet’s decision to give two government jobs to the sons of INC MLAs.
Sources said the team, comprising Kharge JP Agrawal and Rawat, sought clarifications from the Chief Minister on the problems in the state unit
Earlier this month, Amarinder Singh had met the panel, which was on a fact-finding mission regarding the allegations levelled against the chief minister, along with his responses and rejoinders.