With not more than a year left for the Assembly elections in Punjab, detractors within the state’s ruling Congress party led by ex-cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu have decided to up their antes against CM Captain Amarinder Singh.
A couple of ministers and some MLAs led by Sidhu held a secret meeting on Friday to devise strategies to mount pressure on the CM to resolve the 2015 sacrilege case and the subsequent police firing cases of Kotkapura and initiate a clampdown on the alleged drug mafia, reported Indian Express. These two issues had been the main poll promises of Congress in the 2017 Assembly elections. Last month, the politician had demanded a new SIT probe in the sacrilege case.
The sacrilege cases refer to the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib by miscreants in 2015 and the subsequent police firing on those protesting the desecration.
Now, Sidhu has been joined by the Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa and Technical Education, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister Charanjit Channi. MLAs Partap Singh Bajwa’s brother Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa, along with Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, Balwinder Laddi and Barindermeet Singh Pahra were also said to be present during the meeting.
According to reports, in all 38 MLAs and ministers have come together with the aim to “impress upon the party high command that people of Punjab were upset with the Congress government for not delivering justice in sacrilege case, bringing big fish to book in drugs issue and other issues”.
While Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh have been at loggerheads for quite some time now, State Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa is said to be annoyed with the chief minister after he picked on him at a Cabinet meeting called to discuss the sacrilege case. Randhawa had written his resignation on a piece of paper during the meeting and handed it to Amarinder, which the latter tore.
What went wrong between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Captain Amarinder Singh
For the uninitited, things went sour between Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu when despite Captain’s advise Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan on Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s invite for the Kartarpur groundbreaking ceremony. Captain had asked Sidhu to not visit Pakistan amidst the rising ceasefire violations by Pakistani soldiers along the border.
At that time, Navjot Singh Sidhu had quipped, “My captain is Rahul Gandhi and he is the captain of the Captain(Amarinder Singh). Sidhu in a video said that Rahul Gandhi also provided a special plane to facilitate Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Pakistan visit. The relation between Captain and Sidhu further strained when the latter’s picture with Khalistani terrorist Gopal Singh Chawla did the rounds on the Internet.
Meanwhile, speaking on the unease within the State Congress, a senior leader told the Indian Express, “The government has been soft peddling on the sacrilege case. The Chief Minister had promised to bring to book those involved in the sacrilege case and the police officers responsible for the police firing. The Akali Dal government lost power because of that issue. Amarinder had also promised to crack down on the mafia… We had targeted the Badals on both these issues… Now, how will our MLAs go to the people to seek votes if no action is taken on both these issues?”
Reports suggest that these miffed Congress leaders who attended the secret meeting have decided not to demand any positions or ministerial berths from the state government, instead, consolidate the party’s position in run up to the 2022 Assembly elections by getting all the poll promises fulfilled.