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Punjab crisis: Congress ignores Amarinder Singh’s objections, makes Navjot Singh Sidhu the new ‘captain’ in state

Amarinder Singh had been apprehensive about Sonia Gandhi's 'interference' in Punjab politics. He had reportedly written a strong-worded letter saying that the party high command doesn't understand the nuances of Punjab politics and appointing Sidhu may hamper the party's prospects in the state.

Months of bickering and speculations by the Punjab Congress leaders came to an end last evening with Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi overthrowing Sunil Jakhar to make Navjot Singh Sidhu the new Punjab Congress Chief. 

The election of Sidhu as the new Chief is being looked at as a plaster solution to fix the recently developed cracks in the state’s leadership just ahead of the assembly elections. However, this stopgap solution has further widened the rift between the two factions in Punjab Congress.  

The decision garnered a wide range of responses with some snubbing Captain Amarinder Singh while others attacking Sidhu for his vendetta politics. 

What transpired in the Punjab Congress Committee?

Navjot Singh Sidhu in an attempt to gain relevancy in Punjab politics before the state assembly elections came out with guns blazing at the current Punjab Chief Minister with his pack of leaders. From accusing Singh of corruption, failure to rake up the sacrilege case to forgotten promises, Sidhu managed to form an anti-Captain camp within the Punjab Congress.

Not that Captain Amarinder Singh was far behind. Multiple investigations in alleged real estate scams were initiated against Sidhu and company after their blatant attack on Singh.

The unforeseen crisis led to the involvement of National Congress leaders who constituted a committee to issue a resolution. During this period, reports of Sidhu chasing the Gandhi family and standalone meetings between Captain Amarinder Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi made headlines. 

What seemed unsolvable was brought to a quick-fix by the constituted committee to not lose hold in the state’s political game. 

Amarinder Singh demands apology

After several rounds of meetings, Captain Amarinder Singh announced that he would happily accept the committee’s recommendations but refused to meet the dissident Congress leader unless he issued an apology.

Captain Amarinder Singh has demanded a public apology from Navjor Singh Sidhu for his offensive comments and Tweets, and has refused to meet him until he receives the apology.

10 MLAs issue statement in support of Amarinder Singh

As Sidhu has been marathoning to seek ‘blessings’ of Punjab MLAs, at least ten MLAs have issued a joint statement in support of CM Capt Amarinder Singh.

After switching over from AAP, MLA Sukhpal Khaira said that after talking to his colleagues Harminder Gill, Fateh Bajwa, Gurpreet GP, Kuldeep Vaid, Balwinder Laddoo, Santok Singh Bhalaipur, Joginder Bhoa, Jagdev Kamalu, Primal Khalsa, a joint statement supporting Capt Amarinder had been issued by the group. 

The statement praising Captain Amarinder Singh for his relentless work claimed that the party stands well entrenched in Punjab.

“There is no doubt that the appointment of state PPCC chief was the prerogative of the party high command, but at the same time, washing dirty linen in public has only decreased the party graph during the last couple of months”, read the statement.

Former Punjab Chief calls for a meeting

Meanwhile, the former Punjab Congress Chief Sunil Jakhar has called for a party meeting on Monday after he was ousted from his position to pacify Navjot Singh Sidhu. 

As many as 80 MLAs and 23 district presidents are expected to arrive at the Congress Bhavan at 3 pm on Monday for the meeting. As per reports, the meeting’s agenda was to urge the party members to accept the decision of the party high command. 

In a statement issued on Sunday Jakhar informed that in the meeting, all the MLAs and district presidents would pass a resolution stating that whatever decision the party high command takes regarding Punjab, would be acceptable to the entire state unit.

As the announcement was made prior to Sidhu’s election, Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira in a tweet had said, “I urge Sunil Jakhar not to indulge in show of strength and wait for the announcement of Congress President. Even otherwise the PPCC stands dissolved so the meeting would have no locus standi and would be invalid. It’s time to unite and not divide!”  

Sidhu named Punjab Congress Chief

In a late evening announcement, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as the new Punjab Congress chief. The AICC also appointed four working presidents of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee: Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra.   

Amarinder Singh had been apprehensive about Sonia Gandhi’s ‘interference’ in Punjab politics. He had reportedly written a strong-worded letter saying that the party high command doesn’t understand the nuances of Punjab politics and appointing Sidhu may hamper the party’s prospects in the state.

Because of Singh’s opposition to Sidhu’s candidature as the chief, the party’s state in-charge, Harish Rawat had to fly to Chandigarh to pacify the sulking CM, suggested reports. 

Congress leaders react

Senior Congress leader and former law minister Ashwani Kumar on Sunday in a Tweet urged the party members to accept the decision. “The decision of the #Congress High Command to appoint @sherryontopp as the new Party chief in #Punjab should now be gracefully accepted by all in the interest of Party unity. This is a time to be united. There are no victors or losers. Reconciliation is the way forward” said Kumar in a thread worried about the present tug-of-war situation in the party. 

Congress ‘youth’ leader Srinivas BV congratulated the ‘Voice of Punjab’ for his new role. Srinivas’s Tweet read, “Warm congratulations to the Voice of Punjab, Shri Navjot Singh Sidhu on being appointed the president of Punjab Congress Committee. Your leadership will continue to spearhead the state and nation to achieve greater heights.”

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in an understandable language labeled Sidhu as a ‘dynamic leader.’ “Congratulations to Navjot Singh Sidhu ⁦@sherryontopp⁩ on his appointment as President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. An important state party organisation must move forward under a dynamic leader, in the service of inclusive and progressive values,” read his Tweet. 

While the Congress leadership has been forced to cheer the new appointment, the citizens have cast aspersions on the future of the party under Sidhu who is fairly new to Congress. 

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has not reacted to the development as of yet. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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