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Will Sidhu Return as Punjab Congress Chief? The Suspense Continues

Sidhu had a marathon meeting with Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Thursday.

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Chandigarh: The suspense continues on whether or not Navjot Singh Sidhu has taken back his resignation as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief after a marathon meeting with chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Thursday in Chandigarh.

Sidhu resigned on Tuesday, following differences over the appointment of “tainted” officials and ministers in the new Channi government that took charge after the fall of the Amarinder Singh government at the party high command’s behest.

While it has been widely reported that both sides have reached a compromise, there has been no official word on how much both sides negotiated in light of Sidhu’s fresh tirade against the Channi government, accusing it of siding with corruption by promoting tainted officers and ministers.

At the centre of the controversy was Congress MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh’s re-entry as cabinet minister. He was earlier dropped from the Amarinder government for his links with illegal sand mining business. Sidhu was also unhappy with the appointment of a new DGP and advocate general because of their links with police officers and politicians he believed were responsible for sacrilege incidents that rocked the state in 2015.

Just before his meeting with Channi, Sidhu attacked the state’s new DGP, IPS Sahota, alleging that he wrongly indicted two Sikh youths in a sacrilege case during the SAD-BJP government and gave a clean chit to the Badals on the issue.

Sidhu was also against the appointment of A.P.S. Deol as advocate general of Punjab. Deol was an advocate for former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, who has been on the hit list of Sidhu and others for his alleged wrongdoing on the sacrilege issue in Punjab under SAD-BJP rule.

Deol had succeeded in getting the former DGP blanket relief from arrest in all the four FIRs registered against him by the Punjab Police till the assembly elections in the state, due in February 2022.

Sources close to Sidhu told The Wire that Sidhu has been assured that both the DGP and AG will be changed, but there has been no official statement from the Channi camp if such a move is in the offing.

Another important question is whether Rana Gurjeet Singh will be forced to resign from the cabinet as the Sidhu camp wanted. As many as seven party MLAs has already opposed Rana Gurjeet’s appointment as cabinet minister, citing that he is tainted and yet to get clean chit in the sand mining scam.

People close to Sidhu told The Wire on Thursday night that some communication is expected from the All India Congress Committee any time. But nothing has come as yet.

High command not happy with Sidhu

Sidhu’s resignation is also seen as a revolt against the party high command, since most of the appointments that Sidhu objected to had Delhi’s consent and were not Channi’s calls alone.

Delhi’s unhappiness was made evident when the AICC observer who landed in Chandigarh a day after Sidhu’s resignation did not call on Sidhu and stayed back in his hotel in Chandigarh. He even stopped Channi from calling on Sidhu in Patiala, where he has been camping since his resignation.

This forced Sidhu to arrive in Chandigarh and release a tweet on Thursday that he will be available at Punjab Bhawan and Channi is welcome if he wants to meet.

The meeting between Channi and Sidhu went on for over two hours in the presence of Chaudhary.

Channi first left the meeting venue around 6 pm while Sidhu came out about half an hour later. No party leader spoke to the media after the meeting concluded.

As his abrupt resignation triggered a fresh turmoil in the party’s Punjab unit hours after Captain Amarinder Singh announced his decision to leave the party, voices within the party grew stronger against Sidhu.

Congress leader Sunil Jakhar hit out at Sidhu, tweeting: “Enough is enough. Put an end to attempts to undermine the authority of CM time and again. Aspersions being cast on selection of AG & DGP is actually questioning the integrity/competence of CM and Home Minister to deliver results. It’s time to put the foot down and clear the air.”

Meanwhile, Amarinder Singh also slammed Sidhu, saying that Sidhu has undermined the authority of the chief minister. Pointing out that he had personally worked with many PPCC chiefs, besides being one himself, he said he always resolved issues amicably, without “indulging in theatrics” like Sidhu.