The clearly visible differences between Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu is still troubling the high command of the Indian National Congress (INC), with AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal summoning four state ministers for feedback on the matter and reviewing 100 days of the Channi government. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Pargat Singh are in Delhi.
The Punjab ministers have reportedly told INC interim president Sonia Gandhi that the party can no longer put up with “tantrums” of Sidhu.
Sources said that the ministers urged the central leaders to bring Chief Minister Channi and Punjab Congress chief Sidhu on the same page.
Sources say the INC leadership is waiting for the AAP to decide on its chief ministerial candidate before it makes up its mind on deciding between Channi and Sidhu as the chief ministerial face.
Randhawa, after having met Venugopal, said the meeting was about the election preparedness. The four ministers are also learnt to have spoken about the damage being caused to the party due to contradictory line of action adopted by Channi and Sidhu. Both have been announcing candidates even as the central election committee is yet to approve a list.
An undeterred Sidhu needs to be tamed or the party might end up paying a heavy electoral price in the forthcoming election, the Punjab ministers in Delhi are learnt to have conveyed to Sonia Gandhi.
The party high command “is in a way weighing its options with regards to Sidhu”, a source told Sirf News.
A source said, “The high command is interested to know what would be more detrimental to the party — his utterances or his removal as PPCC chief.”
The source said, “Most of the leaders who met Venugopal did not support Sidhu openly. At one point, they were even asked if Sidhu would switch off his phone amid campaign close to the election then would any leader be able to placate him. The answer was negative. The ministers said Pargat, Raja Warring and Dr Amar Singh had met him recently but their meeting had no effect on Sidhu.”
Randhawa and Ashu are among the ministers who have already opened a front against Sidhu publicly. Another Cabinet Minister Rana Gurjit Singh has hit out at Sidhu.
Yesterday, the delegation of ministers is learnt to have told Venugopal that unless the Nehru-Gandhis ask Sidhu to hold his horses, he would not stop.
Punjab Congress leaders discussed also how Sidhu was going around dropping hints in the media that either he should be declared the chief ministerial candidate or else he would not campaign for the party.
On 3 January, Sidhu went ahead and made announcements about honorarium of Rs 2,000 per month and eight free cylinders to homemakers. The development created a furore in the party as the issue was discussed in campaign committee meeting of the party on 2 January and when Chief Minister Channi had sought time from colleagues for discussing it with the finance department, Sidhu made the poll promise a day later while the matter was still under consideration.
While the ministers, who met Venugopal yesterday, said that they had gone to Delhi to discuss party’s strategy ahead of elections and to give their departmental report card, and denied that they had discussed Sidhu, sources said most part of the meeting was about the PPCC chief.
Interestingly, Pargat Singh and Raja Warring are considered close to Sidhu. But Sidhu had recently not participated in Pargat’s rally at Jalandhar. It is learnt that he had not even answered Pargat’s calls after making a promise that he would be participating in the rally.
“They are considered close. But what would one do if Sidhu is undeterred. He has been advised but he is going all guns blazing. Even today, he was on so many TV channels repeating the same things. He is making the chief minister look bad. What would anyone do if he is not controlling himself? They would obviously go to the high command,” an INC leader said.
Sources said Randhawa was lobbying for the post of PPCC chief now. Two days ago, he had stated that he was ready to quit as home minister and leave the post for Sidhu.