Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who had strongly opposed the appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as the state chief, stands firm on his condition for any formal meeting with the cricketer-turned-politician.
The Amarinder Singh’s office on Tuesday tweeted that “CM won’t meet Sidhu till he publicly apologises for his personally derogatory social media attacks against him.”
The tweet by Amarinder’s media adviser also denied reports that Sidhu had sought time to meet Captain Amarinder Singh.
“Reports of @sherryontop seeking time to meet @capt_amarinder are totally false. No time has been sought whatsoever,” the chief minister’s adviser tweeted.
During his meeting with Harish Rawat, who is in charge of the Punjab Congress, Amarinder Singh had made it clear that while he would accept Sonia Gandhi’s decision on Sidhu’s appointment, he will not meet the new state chief till the latter publicly apologised for his offensive tweets against him.
The run-up to Sidhu’s appointment as the Punjab Congress chief saw a bitter political battle between the two leaders who openly traded barbs against each other. The bitterness continues even after the appointment.
Amarinder Singh was open about his opposition to Sidhu’s appointment as the Punjab Congress chief. He reportedly even wrote a letter to interim INC president Sonia Gandhi expressing apprehensions over the impact of this decision on the prospects of the party in the assembly elections, due in the state early next year.
However, the INC leadership ignored the chief minister’s reservations and went ahead with Sidhu’s appointment as Punjab Congress chief.
Sidhu, after his appointment, had said on Twitter that he will take everyone along and has been meeting party leaders and representatives.
Message to Amarinder: Sidhu isn’t sorry
The meeting assumes significance as it comes amid a public tussle between Sidhu and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who was strongly opposed to the former’s elevation.
Among the prominent ministers who reached Sidhu’s house were Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Charanjit Singh Channi and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria besides outgoing state unit chief Sunil Jakhar.
Only 18 out of the 80 INC MLAs in Punjab skipped the meeting.
Later, Sidhu, along with the MLAs, boarded luxury buses and went to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, where a large number of INC supporters gathered. They also went to the Durgiana temple and Ram Tirath Sthal.
Sidhu found support from the MLAs who gathered at his house, with some of them saying there is no need for the Punjab Congress chief to apologise.
Minister Randhawa, who was behind organising the meeting, told reporters he was surprised at the “behaviour” of the chief minister.
Sidhu’s elevation as state unit chief has to be respected and accepted by all, irrespective of whatever differences there might have been in the past, he said.
Randhawa said even senior leader Partap Singh Bajwa and Sukhpal Singh Khaira earlier were at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh but now they have sunk their differences.
“Why can’t the chief minister sink his differences with Sidhu,” Randhawa asked.
MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra said Sidhu will formally assume the charge of the state party chief at Chandigarh on Friday and expects the chief minister to be present at the event.
Amrinder Singh Raja Warring said, “I think at this level, leaders should not ask each other to apologise.”
Pargat Singh also said there was no need for Sidhu to apologise. “I have always said it cannot be a fight between personalities. The fight was about issues,” said Pargat, a former India hockey captain.
Sidhu mobilises support
On Tuesday, scores of INC workers and Sidhu supporters had accorded a warm welcome to Sidhu when he arrived in Amritsar after being appointed the state party chief.
The party workers put up posters of Sidhu at many places in the city.
Sidhu had been calling on ministers and legislators in Chandigarh to mobilise support in the past few days amid escalating tension with Amarinder.
Going by the reception Sidhu received from party workers and local leaders on his way to Amritsar, it seems that he has managed to consolidate his position among party cadres.
Some party functionaries claim that energy has also started following among cadres as the organisational functioning of the party remained in inertia after INC president Sonia Gandhi had dissolved Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and district committees in January 2020, and a meeting of the PPCC coordination committee was never held.