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Sidhu elevated as Punjab Cong chief amid strife

Monday, 19 July 2021 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

Amid voices of opposition, the Congress High Command late on Sunday evening announced the elevation of Navjot Singh Sidhu as the new party president of the Punjab unit, ending the impasse prevailing within the party for over a month. Sidhu would be assisted by four working presidents — Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel, and Kuljit Singh Nagra (all legislators). Sidhu replaced Sunil Jakhar who was appointed State party chief in 2017.

Nagra is considered close to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, and Danny would be representing the young leaders. Besides, MLA Pawan Goel’s appointment was made to give representation to the Dalit and Hindu community.

The appointment came at time after days of stand-off between the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Sidhu camps.

Almost all parliamentarians had on Sunday came out in Amarinder’s support, even as Sidhu attempted to make a foray into the Patiala royal’s bastion while meeting his loyalists in his home constituency.

Just a day earlier, Amarinder had taken a softer line on Sidhu’s anticipated appointment as Punjab Congress chief, but with the rider of a “public apology” for his derogatory tweets — had sent signals that the announcement of Sidhu’s new role was just a matter of time.

But hours later, Amarinder invited his bête noire Partap Singh Bajwa and others to a meeting — indicating that he was in no mood to mend fences with Sidhu.

Amarinder’s dinner diplomacy with his known critic Bajwa seems to have raised another issue before the party High Command as it came on the day when Sidhu went to meet Sunil Jakhar, former party presidents including Bajwa, Cabinet Ministers and several MLAs.

Soon after the well-publicised meeting between the two senior Congress leaders, Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari took to Twitter to describe Bajwa as an “old dyed in the wool Congressman”, adding that Amarinder and Bajwa would “make a great team.”

Sri Anandpur Sahib MP Tewari, who had earlier tweeted about the demographic statistics of Jat Sikhs, Hindus, and Dalits, tweeted the photo of both leaders, saying it was good to see them together. “Partap, who I have known since 1983, and Captain sahib would make a good team for the times ahead,” Tewari tweeted late on Saturday night.

Ravneet Bittu also shared a tweet by a renowned journalist, wherein he questioned why Partap Bajwa was not appointed the PPCC chief “if they were going to give the job to a Jat Sikh”, with a caption, “It makes sense”.

This was followed by a meeting of nine out of total 11 party MPs in the national Capital, where some of the parliamentarians asked why Bajwa, a traditional Congressmen, cannot be appointed as PPCC chief if it was to consider a Jat Sikh leader for the role.

Sources informed that Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla raised the issue asking why Bajwa, also a Jat Sikh, cannot be the State party chief.

The parliamentarian said that many senior leaders are not happy with Sidhu’s elevation.However, the party MPs, after the meeting, maintained that they met to discuss the strategy for the Monsoon Session beginning Monday.

“The Congress will move adjournment motions in the Parliament on farmers’ issues and had gathered to discuss Punjab related pressing issues including farmers’ agitation, COVID vaccine supplies, delayed GST compensation to the State,” said Tewari after the meeting while adding that the party’s internal issues will be raised on internal platforms.

Bajwa insisted that there was no factionalism in the Punjab Congress, while maintaining that the party high command’s decision would be acceptable to all. At the same time, he maintained that the ensuing elections would be fought under the Chief Minister’s leadership.

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