Despite CM Amarinder Singh's objection, Navjot Sidhu carves path to Punjab Congress leadership

Express News Service
CHANDIGARH:  Ending prolonged uncertainty over the appointment of the Punjab Congress president, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) named Navjot Singh Sidhu as the state unit chief on Sunday evening. The appointment was made despite Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s reservations against Sidhu getting this post.

Along with Sidhu, the party has appointed four working presidents — Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra. Gilzian, Nagra and Danny are MLAs from  Tanda, Fategarh Sahib and Jandiala, respectively. Goel is the chairman of Market Committee, Faridkot.

Amarinder had on Saturday conveyed his apprehension about making Sidhu the president of Punjab Congress to AICC general secretary and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat. He had left it to Sonia Gandhi, saying that he would follow what the party’s interim president decides. Sources claimed that Amarinder is not ready to meet Sidhu yet and wants him to apologise publicly for posting derogatory tweets targeted at him and criticising the Songress government.

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Earlier in the day, outgoing Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar had called a meeting of all the 80 party MLAs and 23 district presidents. He said that the meeting had been called to pass a resolution on the decision to be taken by the party high command. Leaders who lost in the last Assembly polls had also been called. All Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs of the party from the state met at the residence of MP Partap Singh Bajwa in New Delhi.

A senior leader said the way the high command is trying to impose a leader on them was not acceptable. “Sidhu is close friend of Pakistan PM Imran Khan and hugged the Pakistan army chief when he visited the country. Who can forget this?” said another leader.

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MLA Sukhpal Khaira said that around 10 MLAs had urged the high command not to let down Amarinder , due to whose efforts the party stands well entrenched in Punjab. The MLAs said there was no doubt that the appointment of state chief was the prerogative of the high command. but at the same time, washing dirty linen in public has only tarnished the party’s image in the last couple of months.

Rift between Amarinder and Sidhu has been widening since the Congress won the Punjab election in 2017. Sidhu, who quit BJP and joined Congress just before the 2017 elections, has been fighting for a bigger post. The former cricketer had recently criticised his own government and Amarinder over power purchase agreements, sacrilege and Kotkapura firing cases, besides the reign of sand and liquor mafia.