There appears no immediate end to the ugly infighting in the Punjab Congress despite all efforts for a truce between chief minister Amarinder Singh and his detractor cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Amarinder Singh yesterday upped the ante by writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi expressing apprehensions over the possible appointment of Sidhu as state party chief.
The Punjab chief minister is learnt to have mentioned in the letter that there could be an adverse impact on the party’s prospects in the upcoming assembly polls by ignoring the old guard, the sources said.
The INC man in charge of Punjab, Harsih Rawat, had on the day before yesterday floated a compromise formula, under which Sidhu would be appointed as the state Congress president along with working presidents, while Amarinder Singh was to lead the party in the assembly election in 2022.
However, according to reports, Amarinder was unhappy over the proposal and had conveyed his objections to the party leadership.
That the truce formula was not working was evident on Friday, when Rawat reiterated that Amarinder will be the party’s chief ministerial face, but remained silent on Sidhu’s elevation. “The sense of security that people of Punjab demand has been given only by the Congress. People praise Captain Amarinder Singh for peace in the state and they don’t want to experiment. Whenever they sided with Akalis, disorder ensued,” Rawat said.
When asked about the compromise formula and Sidhu’s reported elevation, Rawat said he had submitted his note to the INC interim president and the ball was now in Sonia Gandhi’s court.
With hurdles to the truce formula, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul met Sidhu on 16 July in Delhi in the presence of Harish Rawat.
Asked about what transpired at the meeting, Rawat said he could not divulge the details. “Whatever a state leader says to the Congress president is between them,” he said.
Sidhu, however, left Sonia Gandhi’s house at 10 Janpath without talking to the media.
Balancing social interest groups is the key: Manish Tewari
To make matters difficult for Sidhu, senior leader Manish Tewari suggested that the post of state Congress chief should go to a Hindu.
Tewari, who is an MP, in a tweet cited Punjab’s demography and said that Sikhs constituted 57.75% of the population while Hindus and Dalits constituted 38.49% and 31.94% respectively, speaking like communists who do not consider the Scheduled Castes as a part of the Hindu community.
“Punjab is both progressive and secular… but balancing social interest groups is key. Equality is the foundation of social justice!” he said in the tweet and tagged the INC and the party’s in-charge of Punjab affairs, Harish Rawat.
If the party chooses to appoint Sidhu as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president, there will be two Jat Sikhs on key posts. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh is a Jat Sikh too.
On Thursday night, both Amarinder Singh and Sidhu held parallel meetings in Chandigarh with their loyalists.
While the chief minister met some party MPs, MLAs and ministers, Sidhu is learnt to have met Punjab ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa and Tript Rajinder Bajwa, and some MLAs close to him at Randhawa’s residence.
While Amarinder is strongly opposed to Sidhu’s elevation, Sidhu is adamant not to settle for anything less.
It remains to be seen how and when the INC leadership manages to find a solution to this crisis.