Reiterating that he would accept any decision taken by Sonia Gandhi, Amarinder Singh termed the meeting with Rawat as fruitful, adding the latter would take up the issues raised by him with Gandhi…reports Vishal Gulati.
After days of hectic lobbying and parleys within the Congress in Punjab over “defiant” former Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was in direct loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Sidhu was on Saturday night appointed the state unit party President, replacing Sunil Jakhar, a prominent Hindu face who was at the helm for over four years.
His appointment comes in the wake of serious objections raised by Amarinder Singh, who wrote to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi against the elevation of Sidhu, a Jat Sikh, to the post, saying it would upset senior leaders representing the Hindu community.
Gandhi appointed Sidhu as the party’s new Punjab unit President along with four working Presidents. They are Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhvinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel, and Kuljit Singh Nagra.
A day before his appointment, Sidhu did hectic “lobbying” by reaching out to as many of his party colleagues while the “sulking” Chief Minister met Congress state in-charge Harish Rawat here on Saturday and categorically told him that he won’t meet Sidhu until he apologises for his “derogatory” tweets.
Reiterating that he would accept any decision taken by Sonia Gandhi, Amarinder Singh termed the meeting with Rawat as fruitful, adding the latter would take up the issues raised by him with Gandhi.
It was learnt that Rawat came to Chandigarh for a meeting between Amarinder Singh and his bete noire Sidhu, ahead of the official announcement of the latter’s appointment as the state unit chief by Sonia Gandhi.
However, an adamant Amarinder Singh, who is reportedly upset with Sidhu for targeting his government over the power crisis and the sacrilege issue, categorically had told Rawat that there would be no rapprochement until Sidhu apologises in public for his “derogatory tweets and interviews”.
Earlier, Amarinder Singh had even written to Sonia Gandhi, warning that the party would split if Sidhu was given charge of the state Congress.
In his letter, the Chief Minister had said that he will not contest under Sidhu if he is elevated to the top organisational post in the state.
The letter was delivered to Sonia Gandhi at her residence in Delhi before she met cricketer-turned-politician on July 16.
Just hours ahead of the revamp in the state unit, 10 MLAs issued a joint statement in support of the Chief Minister and said Sidhu was a celebrity and undoubtedly an asset to the party, but criticism of his own party in public has created the rift.
Cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu’s political innings with the Congress is just a new and his rivals see him a turncoat politician.
In March 2017, he was inducted as a Cabinet minister in the new Congress government in Punjab headed by Amarinder Singh.
At that time, Sidhu was not designated as Deputy Chief Minister, as was being speculated in political circles.
Sidhu, who joined the Congress in January, just days ahead of the February 4 assembly elections in Punjab, won the Amritsar-east Assembly seat with a margin of over 42,000 votes.
Sidhu had earlier remained Member of Parliament from Amritsar when he was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He was elected MP in 2004, 2007 (by-election) and 2009.
He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Narendra Modi government in April 2016.
Ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, Sidhu had resigned from the Rajya Sabha and said: “At the behest of the Prime Minister, I had accepted RS nomination for the welfare of Punjab. With the closure of every window leading to Punjab, the purpose stands defeated, now a mere burden. I prefer not to carry it.”
Within the Congress, Sidhu had been lying low since his resignation from the state Cabinet in July 2019.
He had resigned from his post as a Cabinet Minister in the state on July 14, 2019 after differences with Amarinder Singh over portfolio allocation. Sidhu was in-charge of local bodies but was shifted to the Power Department.
Time and again he was meeting top party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi, and apprised them of the political situation in Punjab.
Appealing to the people to join him and “be part of the resurrection”, Sidhu, who has never been far from controversies, even hogging the limelight as fallout — whether for good or bad.
Only time will tell that whether Sidhu will be able to return his party to power with Amarinder Singh remaining the Chief Minister’s face for the upcoming election, slated in early 2022.