Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed the Punjab Congress president on Sunday, after months of bitter party-infighting with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Four working presidents have also been appointed alongside Sidhu, namely: Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel, and Kujit Singh Nagra. Danny, a Dalit Sikh is Rahul Gandhi’s choice. While Sangat Singh is an OBC, Goel is a Hindu, and Nagra is a Jat Sikh.
“Congress president has appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee with immediate effect,” a party statement said.
“The party appreciates the contributions of outgoing PCC president Sunil Jakhar,”the statement added. Nagra, who was in-charge of party affairs in Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura, has been relieved of his present responsibilities.
“I am a small soldier of Congress, I have been given a big responsibility by the party high command, I will try to fulfill my responsibility. With the cooperation of all the workers, the Congress government will be formed again in Punjab in 2022 under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi,” Gilzian said after his appointment. Sidhu, meanwhile, was seen praying at a Gurudwara after the news.
Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh, as the leader has attacked him over the alleged delay in justice in the 2015 desecration cases. Both have recently held a series of meetings in Chandigarh and elsewhere in Punjab, to work out last-minute strategies ahead of the party revamp.
While Sidhu has been aiming to be the Captain’s successor in Punjab, the CM had reiterated his displeasure over the possibility of the cricketer and his bête noire being given a key post in the party. He had also written a letter to Sonia Gandhi earlier, saying the party would be ‘split’ in the state if Sidhu was given the coveted post.
Earlier during the day party MLAs had rallied around the Captain. Senior party leader Sukhpal Khaira — claiming the support of 10 Congress MLAs — had urged the high command not to let down Amarinder Singh “due to whose unrelenting efforts the party stands well entrenched in Punjab”.
In a joint statement issued by Khaira, who recently crossed over to Congress from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), he said there was no doubt that the appointment of state PCC chief was the prerogative of the party high command, but that at the same time, “washing dirty linen in public has only dipped the party graph during the last couple of months”.
The MLAs said that it was due to Captain that the party regained power in Punjab in the aftermath of the 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib and the subsequent genocide of the Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.
AICC general secretary and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat had on Saturday flown down to Chandigarh to meet the Captain, in what was seen as an effort to placate the chief minister. After the meeting, Rawat had tweeted that the CM had said he would “accept the decision of the party regarding the matter”. But the leader has asserted he would not meet Navjot Sidhu until the latter apologised for his “derogatory tweets and interviews”.
While Opposition parties prepare for the 2022 elections, Congress has been embroiled in a battle of its own. The central party leadership had also constituted a panel to resolve the crisis. Sidhu, in the meantime, has been stepping-up his efforts and has reached out to more party leaders and legislators for their support.