Navjot Singh Sidhu hosts ’62 MLAs’ in show of strength | India News – Times of India


CHANDIGARH/AMRITSAR: Navjot Singh Sidhu‘s meeting with “62 MLAs” at his residence on Wednesday, followed by a trip to the Golden Temple to pray, MLAs in tow, was seen as a major show of strength by the newly appointed Punjab Congress chief in his running feud with chief minister Amarinder Singh.
Those siding with Sidhu criticized Amarinder for refusing to meet the new PCC chief unless the latter tendered a public apology for his “derogatory” tweets against the CM. They advised the CM to agree to an unconditional truce. Amarinder had opposed the appointment of Sidhu as Punjab PCC president.
Sidhu’s camp claimed that there were 62 (Congress has 80 MLAs) Congress MLAs, including Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Tript Singh Bajwa, Sunil Jakhar and Raja Waring, present when he went to the Golden Temple. The group then offered prayers at Durgiana Temple and Ram Tirath, and paid homage at Jallianwala Bagh.
At Durgiana Temple, Sidhu, in a brief media interaction, said he was “happy with what he had received and his well-being was in the well-being of Punjab”.
With the battle lines drawn, party insiders are concerned at the impact of the slugfest could have on the functioning of the state government. Given Wednesday’s flaunting of MLAs and a few ministers by Sidhu, there are murmurs about the possibility of the Sidhu camp approaching AICC president Sonia Gandhi to replace Amarinder with Sidhu. A tweet on Wednesday by the PPCC chief seemed to hint at this: “Winds of Change — of the people, by the people, for the people, Chandigarh to Amritsar.”
Punjab cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Capt Amarinder seems to be challenging the orders of the high command. If he had some reservations about Sidhu, he should have shared these during his meetings with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Punjab AICC in-charge Harish Rawat. We all have to abide by the decision of the high command. No one can be allowed to indulge in indiscipline or to split the party.”
Sidhu loyalist MLA Pargat Singh asked why he should apologise. “In that case, Capt Amarinder should also apologise to the people of Punjab for not solving the issues of the state. We should focus on the welfare of Punjab and shed personal ego. Amarinder should show magnanimity as it cannot be a clash of personalities.”
Congress MLA Madanlal Jalalpur, too, backed Sidhu: “The CM should show a large heart and make up with Sidhu. His advisers are not giving him the right advice. Partap Singh Bajwa never apologised to Capt Amarinder but the two have called a truce.”
Randhawa added that they were “loyal to the party, not to any individual”. He said they had “sided with Captain Saab because of the party” and that today, too, they stood with the party. “Shortcoming has been because of the advisers. Will retired officers and the CMO dictate terms to us? The party workers are demoralised. We have been raising issues like the power purchase agreements (PPAs).”
Randhawa said he did not agree with his cabinet colleague Brahm Mohindra’s views on supporting the CM over the apology demanded of Sidhu. “He should have facilitated a meeting between the two,” he said.
“Look at the derogatory words that Sukhpal Khaira used against the CM during the Assembly session. The dispute between Amarinder and Partap Bajwa had flared up and we had welcomed Bajwa despite being Amarinder loyalists. There is no place for indiscipline in Congress,” said Randhawa, adding that he, along with Tript Bajwa and Sukhbinder Sarkaria, had gone to the house of Punjab Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh to convey that they, along with Sidhu, would walk up to the CM if he agreed to meet.
Another Congress MLA, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, said, “I believe there is some annoyance (sic) between Amarinder and Sidhu, which will be resolved soon… There are differences between leaders of other parties as well.”
A political analyst saw the developments as the end of the Amarinder era in the party. “A formidable group of Amarinder loyalists is now siding with Sidhu as if they have realised, or have been told, that Amarinder has not delivered his promises in the last four-and-a-half years, and the same could cost Congress dearly in the assembly elections,” analyst Kuldip Singh said.
Sidhu and the MLAs backing him have decided to invite Capt Singh to Sidhu’s installation ceremony at Congress Bhavan in Chandigarh on Friday. It remains to be seen whether Amarinder will be willing to bury the hatchet and attend in the absence of a public apology by Sidhu.
Sources said a letter to this effect was endorsed by the MLAs who had converged on Sidhu’s residence in Amritsar to make a request for Amarinder’s presence. Working president Kuljit Singh Nagra has been deputed to hand over the letter to Amarinder on Thursday and he has sought an appointment with the CMO.
However, sources close to Amarinder, said no such letter had been received by the CM till Wednesday evening.
Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa confirmed the development to TOI, adding that he had made a prior attempt on behalf of Sidhu to reach out to Amarinder through a loyalist, former MLA Lal Singh. He, however, rejected reports that the MLAs passed any resolution in Amritsar. “We had gone there to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and not to pass any resolutions,” he said.
Harish Rawat is likely to attend the event. There are plans to invite Rahul Gandhi for the official takeover, besides Congress leader Kamal Nath and the Rajasthan CM. However, there was no official confirmation of this.
“On Tuesday evening, a message was sent out to the MLAs to come over to Amritsar, and those present signed the letter to the CM. There were around 60 MLAs present at Sidhu’s residence. Any new president who takes over to the Golden Temple, but in this case the entire turn of events is being overhyped due to the annoyance of the CM,” said an MLA.
Sources in the party said that the Congress leadership was in touch with both sides and that the decision by the Sidhu camp to offer an olive branch to Amarinder with an invitation followed their intervention.

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