New Delhi, August 28
AICC general Secretary Punjab Harish Rawat on Saturday met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and briefed him on the developments in Punjab where the turf war between Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and state chief Navjot Sidhu is far from over and is in fact escalating.
Rawat will be in Chandigarh next week to meet the CM and Sidhu and anyone who wants to meet him.
Rawat is learnt to have apprised Gandhi of the ongoing political and administrative outreach of the state government, the outstanding areas of concern and the progress on 18-point manifesto programme besides the parallel shows of strength by the two leaders and simmering dissidence against the CM.
Gandhi was also told that Sidhu’s adviser Malwinder Mali had resigned as asked by the party.
Rawat, meanwhile, made light of Sidhu’s “I will give a befitting reply if not given the freedom to act and decide” remark saying, “Everyone has a style of speaking and all state leaders are polite.”
“I met Rahul ji and briefed him. I will go to Punjab in two to three days and meet the CM and Sidhu,” Rawat said as the matters escalated.
The party leadership remains torn between the CM and Sidhu camps hoping for the two leaders to resolve their differences and work together in larger electoral interest.
No amount of admonishment from the leadership to reconcile appears to be working.
If the CM continues his show of strength—first through dinner diplomacy with ministers and MLAs and then through personal outreach to former rival and ex-CM Rajinder Bhattal in Chandigarh—Sidhu has literally dared the party of a “befitting reply” if not granted working autonomy to take decisions.
The Congress’s urge to have warring leaders—both valuable in an election year—work in tandem continues to remain a pipedream in Punjab with the CM and Sidhu continuing to pull in different directions.
There is now a growing view in the party that affairs of the state are becoming messy and proving counter-productive.
For a long time before and after Sidhu’s appointment as state chief, the Congress made the CM look weak by organising an elaborate outreach with MLAs and allowing them to vent their anger against his working style.
“If Sidhu was to be made state chief, the CM could have been called and told of the decision. The public exercise of humiliating the CM didn’t help and now this ongoing public criticism of the CM by the state party chief is adding to party’s woes,” said a Punjab minister.
Another AICC functionary said if the party wanted to bet on Sidhu it could have replaced the CM along with the appointment of Sidhu and paved way for newness, no matter how risky.
“This current situation of allowing wounds to fester, hoping against hope that both warring leaders will somehow patch up is quite worrisome. The fact is there is too much bad blood between the CM and Sidhu for the two to reconcile. The high command should call both leaders and talk to them together to reach a resolution. That’s also not happening. So it’s quite a strange situation, fluid and uncertain with all sides anxious and edgy. These signs are ominous when battle preparedness is the goal,” said an AICC leader.
Meanwhile, the much anticipated state cabinet reshuffle also remains pending.