Punjab Congress woes continue as Sidhu fires fresh salvo at Channi

Punjab Congress woes continue as Sidhu fires fresh salvo at Channi

  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, on Sunday, fired a fresh salvo at the state’s new chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, betraying the impression given by the party just three days ago that terms for cessation of hostilities between the two had been negotiated.

Sidhu once again took to Twitter, his favourite platform for airing dissent, to reiterate his demand for replacing Punjab’s newly appointed Director General of Police and Advocate General.

“Demand for Justice in Sacrilege cases and for arrest of main culprits behind the drug trade brought our Govt in 2017 & Due to his failure, People removed the last CM. Now, AG/DG appointments rub salt on wounds of victims, they must be replaced or we will have No face!!” (sic), Sidhu tweeted.

The mercurial former cricketer’s tweet comes days after he had suddenly announced his resignation as Punjab Congress chief on Twitter. He had subsequently explained that he would not accept Channi’s decision to give IPS officer Iqbal Singh Sahota additional charge as the state’s DGP nor condone the appointment of APS Deol as Punjab’s Advocate General.

Sidhu’s opposition to the two appointments stems from Deol’s involvement as a lawyer in defending the accused in the 2015 sacrilege cases and allegations that Sahota too had shielded the real culprits while indicting “innocent Sikh youth” in the controversial and politically sensitive matter.

On September 30, two days after his resignation, Sidhu had met Channi and other party leaders in Chandigarh, ostensibly to resolve the crisis that he had plunged the Congress into at a time when the party was already under attack from sacked chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has threatened to form his own regional outfit in poll-bound Punjab.

While most media reports claimed that a rapprochement had been sealed at this meeting, The Federal reported that although Sidhu and Channi discussed the contentious issues for nearly three hours, no final assurances had been given by either side. Sidhu’s tweet, on Sunday, validates this.

Besides the appointments of Sahota and Deol, sources had said that Sidhu also wanted Channi to rejig his newly-formed cabinet and oust controversial minister Rana Gurjit Singh while re-allocating some portfolios, particularly the home ministry that had been given to deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

The Federal had reported that Channi told Sidhu that a rejig of the state cabinet within weeks of it being sworn-in would only cause further embarrassment to the party and give the impression that the CM was not in control. Similarly, the CM is learnt to have told Sidhu at the meeting that though Deol has been appointed as the Advocate General, the government will not rely on him to prosecute the accused in the sacrilege cases and would instead appoint a panel of lawyers for this purpose.

On October 1, the Punjab government appointed senior advocate RS Bains as special public prosecutor in four matters linked to the 2015 sacrilege cases and police firing cases, in a move that was largely seen as Channi’s way of allaying Sidhu’s apprehensions of Deol sabotaging the prosecution in these cases.

On Sahota’s appointment, sources had told The Federal, that the CM reasoned with Sidhu that the IPS officer had only been given additional charge as the DGP till such a time that a full-time DGP is appointed. The Punjab government, said sources, was in the process of finalising a panel of three-four senior IPS officers whose names would be recommended to the UPSC for selection and appointment as the full-time DGP.

The September 30 meeting, sources said, had merely succeeded in getting Channi and Sidhu to sit together for a discussion but had not broken the stalemate that existed since the Punjab Congress chief’s resignation.

Also read: Sonia Gandhi didn’t remove Amarinder, 78 Cong MLAs did: Surjewala

The Congress high command, sources had said, was planning to form a coordination committee to avoid any further confrontation between the head of the party’s state unit and the CM at a time when elections in the state are only four months away, and the Congress is already facing an uphill task of fulfilling poll promises and reversing the perceived anti-incumbency that had led to Amarinder Singh’s ouster. However, an announcement to this effect is still awaited.

With Sidhu’s renewed attack on the issue of the two key appointments made by Channi within the first few days of his taking over as CM, the feud in Punjab Congress has once again come to the fore.

Barely a fortnight into his tenure as CM, Channi is clearly battling on multiple fronts with Sidhu breathing down his neck, Amarinder Singh gunning for revenge against his unceremonious ouster and the Opposition crying foul over recent reports that the chief minister was accompanied by his son during an official meeting with the DGP and other senior police officials.

Also read: Channi makes truce with Sidhu; Punjab storm blows over, for now

Though Sidhu has insisted that “post or no post” he will stand by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the fault-lines within Punjab Congress only appear to be deepening with every passing day.

Read More
Next Story