The top Congress leadership has clearly told newly-appointed Punjab unit chief Navjot Sidhu that he must remove his two controversial advisors. If he does not, the party will, senior party leader, in-charge of the state Harish Rawat told NDTV on August 25.
The tough party line was spelled out as fresh rebellion singed Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who termed remarks by Sidhu’s advisers as “atrocious and ill-conceived.”
Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Mali had recently joined Sidhu’s team. In a Facebook post last week, Mali had described Kashmir as a “country of Kashmiri people.” He had also questioned why J&K has been “turned into an open jail” and for how long. Garg, on the other hand, has questioning Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s frequent criticism of Pakistan.
“It is not this or that camp who objected (to these remarks). The whole party and the state have objections too. The party has a line on Jammu and Kashmir — that it is a part of India,” Harish Rawat said.
“These advisers were not appointed by the party. We have asked Sidhu to dismiss them. If Sidhu does not do that, I will. We do not want people who embarrass the party,” said Rawat.
Rawat sidestepped the question of whether Amarinder Singh would remain the CM candidate and the face of the party during the election. “We cannot repeat the same thing,” he said.
“Every party has a set procedure. We will follow that. When the new legislature of the party sits (after the election in case of a victory) then they will make a decision,” he said.
Criticism of Capt Amarinder Singh has mounted over the months. “Captain should be replaced else the Congress won’t survive… we will meet Sonia Gandhi over the issue,” said Punjab minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa after a meeting of 23 party MLAs, including four ministers, on August 24.
Rawat played down the rebellion, saying the leaders whom he met on August 25 did not seek the Chief Minister’s removal. The issues they raised, he claimed, were local issues which will be flagged to the party leadership.
“Issues come up as things progress and it depends on the local leaders how they address it. In this case, the government could not solve it, and so things escalated to this level,” he added.
Rawat said the MLAs have said that they will accept the decision of the party leaders. “These things happen in any dynamic party. We will settle this. We have a procedure,” he said. The party has 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly.