Navjot Singh Sidhu could share the job of Punjab Congress chief with “another leader” as part of a formula to resolve infighting in the party ahead of next year’s assembly election, according to an NDTV report.
But according to sources, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is yet to endorse the plan, which has the approval of his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the report said.
Sidhu, the face of rebellion in Punjab Congress, finally had an audience with Rahul late Wednesday night (June 30). Reports said the meeting was facilitated by Priyanka, who had had a three-hour discussion with the cricketer-turned-politician earlier in the day.
Reports also said that during the course of the meeting with the Amritsar East MLA, Priyanka left and reportedly met her brother and persuaded him to meet Sidhu, who had been camping in the national capital for two days.
The meetings were significant for Sidhu in his attempt to take on Amarinder Singh over a host of issues – one of them being sacrilege cases that shook the state around six years ago in which two protestors were killed. Earlier this year the high court had dismissed a government-appointed SIT report into police firings, triggering a backlash. That, along with Amarinder Singh’s “overdependence” on bureaucrats over various welfare schemes, especially farmer loan waivers, has led to resentment in the state Congress.
What transpired at Wednesday’s meetings is not clear, but media reports quoting party sources said these were meant to prepare the ground for conciliation between the two warring sides. Though an AIICC panel has submitted a report to the leadership to bring about a solution, the fact that Rahul agreed to meet Sidhu indicated that the rebel leader is inclined to accept the leadership’s proposal to end the crisis.
Amarinder Singh has appeared before the party panel twice and has presented his version. The party leadership has directed him to take action on 18 issues, including the Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege case, within a time frame.
After the 2017 assembly election, Amarinder made Sidhu a cabinet minister despite opposition from within the party. He was a new entrant and there were many seniors in waiting. However, they were ignored to placate Sidhu, who has remained dissatisfied throughout much of his four years as an MLA and a minister.
During this period, he also resigned as a minister and remained absent from his constituency and the state assembly for 18 months.
Party sources said Amarinder does not want a confrontation with Sidhu at a time when the polls are drawing closer. At the same time, the CM is disinclined to give any big responsibility to him. Party leaders are not in support of making Sidhu a substitute for Amarinder.
In such a situation Sidhu would have to stay in the Congress and resolve issues with Singh, the sources added.