Sidhu, Amarinder meet MLAs ahead of likely Punjab Congress revamp; party conducts hefty parleys

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By PTI

CHANDIGARH: Ahead of a likely revamp in the Punjab Congress, a hectic political activity was at play here with CM Amarinder Singh and former state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu meeting party legislators.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh met more than 20 party leaders, including ministers, MLAs and MPs at his farmhouse in Mohali’s Siswan, sources said.

Sidhu, who may be declared the state party chief, met four ministers and at least six MLAs at the residence of Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa here, they said.

Those who were present in the meeting with Sidhu included ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Charanjit Singh Channi, MLAs Pargat Singh, Kulbir Zira, Barinderjit Singh Pahra and Kuljit Nagra.

What transpired in the meeting, which lasted for two hours, could not be ascertained.

Some of those present there had recently raised the issue of unfulfilled poll promises, including the 2015 desecration cases and the drug menace.

Meanwhile, the CM met ministers, including Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Aruna Chaudhary, Sunder Shyam Arora, besides some MLAs and MPs at his residence.

The development assumes significance amid reports of likely revamp of the Punjab Congress unit and cabinet reshuffle.

There are also media reports that Sidhu is likely to be announced as the Punjab Congress chief by the party high command.

There is also talk of appointing two working presidents, a Dalit and a Hindu face.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh as he had attacked him over the alleged delay in justice in the 2015 desecration cases.

The Congress leadership is working out a formula for Amarinder and Sidhu to work together.

The Congress had set up a three-member panel, headed by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, to resolve the infighting in the Punjab Congress.

Both Sidhu and Amarinder had met the three-member AICC panel.

The CM had then said any decision taken by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi would be acceptable to him and the party.

Meanwhile, deliberations to chalk out a peace formula between Amarinder and Sidhu continued on Thursday with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi meeting Harish Rawat, the party in-charge for the state.

Rawat, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge for Punjab affairs, said Singh will continue as the chief minister when the state goes to Assembly polls next year.

Sources said Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were also present during Rawat’s hour-long meeting with Sonia Gandhi at her residence here.

Amid speculation over Sidhu getting a bigger role in a revamp of the Congress unit in Punjab, Rawat said both the chief minister and the Amritsar East MLA have to work together and a formula is being worked out.

He made it clear that he had never said Sidhu will be made the Punjab Congress chief.

Reports claiming that the cricketer-turned-politician will be made the state party chief have irked Singh and he has complained to the Congress leadership about it, the sources said.

However, the chief minister’s camp said he has neither quit nor offered to quit and will lead the Congress to victory in the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls.

“We are working out a formula where both the chief minister and Sidhu could work together,” Rawat told reporters.

“Amarinder Singh will continue as the chief minister of Punjab and the party will go to polls with him in the top position,” he said.

Rawat, however, said the party president’s final approval on the Punjab unit revamp is awaited.

He said the Congress wants both leaders to work towards uniting the party and steering it to victory in the Assembly polls slated early next year.

Notably, both Singh and Sidhu have held parallel meetings in Chandigarh with their loyalists.

While the chief minister has met some party MPs, MLAs and ministers, Sidhu is learnt to have met Punjab ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa and Tript Rajinder Bajwa, and some MLAs close to him at Randhawa’s residence.

Sidhu and Singh have been at loggerheads with each other and have also made public statements against each other, prompting the party to set up a three-member panel headed by Mallikarjun Kharge to end factionalism.

The sources said Sidhu could land up with a bigger role in the party’s revamp in Punjab ahead of the Assembly polls as part of the peace formula.

The party leadership does not want Sidhu to quit the Congress ahead of the election and join another party.

The sources said the Punjab Congress could have two working presidents too, in a bid to accommodate all sections, regions, religions and castes.

The party will announce a major revamp in Punjab in the next few days, which may see a new PCC chief too.

Sonia Gandhi had earlier met Singh, and Sidhu had called on Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

The chief minister has told reporters that any decision with regard to the party will be acceptable to all and shall be implemented.

Sidhu is also learnt to have told the Congress leadership that any decision taken by it will be accepted by him.

The cricketer-turned-politician is keen for a bigger role in the revamped organisation ahead of the Assembly polls.

The Congress leadership has met almost all senior leaders and legislators from Punjab and taken their views before initiating the changes in the organisation.



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