Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu quit a few days ago, taking the “moral high ground” over certain ministerial appointments and key posts going to “tainted” people. A week later, even as his resignation is yet to be accepted by the Congress top leadership, reports are now picking up pace that the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president may actually be asked to go.
The buzz was stoked when senior Congress leader and Member of Parliament Ravneet Bittu—tipped as Sidhu’s possible successor— reportedly accompanied chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi on his visit to New Delhi on Tuesday. Channi’s visit was scheduled as he was to meet union home minister Amit Shah to discuss not only the ongoing farmer agitation and demand stern action against those responsible for the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, but sources pointed out that the name of the probable director general of police (DGP), also a part of the controversy, was to be discussed as well.
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Sidhu was appointed as PPCC chief on July 19, but his differences with the newly appointed CM surfaced when Channi distributed portfolios in his expanded cabinet. Congress leaders pointed out that Sidhu was unhappy with his rival SS Randhawa getting a key ministry and had also objected to the names of APS Deol as state advocate general and Iqbal Sahota’s appointment as Punjab DGP, with both linked to certain sacrilege cases. When Channi decided to go ahead with these names, Sidhu chose to step down.
“The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner. I can never compromise on Punjab’s future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab. Therefore, I hereby resign as the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. I will continue to serve the Congress,” he wrote in his letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, which he posted on social media. His move came days after Captain Amarinder Singh resigned as Punjab chief minister, following a long power tussle with Sidhu, complaining of repeated “humiliation” by the party.
Even as the party is still to accept Sidhu’s resignation, a much-talked-about coordination committee that was to be formed to sort out matters is yet to take shape.
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With senior leader Pratap Singh Bajwa and Bittu now in Delhi, Punjab Congress leaders say they would not be surprised if there is a change in guard again. Former PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar had also objected to Sidhu’s outrage and action stating that he was undermining the powers of the CM. With a few months ahead of polls in the state, observers say the Congress may just reduce its chances of what was being seen as a clean sweep for the party by playing musical chairs.