The Punjab Congress peace deal that has given Navjot Singh Sidhu the reins of the state party unit will be tested in the days to come. Media reports said the truce was at best tenuous and that CM Amarinder Singh and the newly appointed state party chief are yet to sit together and thrash out differences.
The state Assembly polls are due early next year.
The deal involves an 18-point programme suggested by a three-member All India Congress Committee panel set up to resolve the power tussle between Sidhu and Amarinder Singh.
The party’s central leadership promoted Sidhu as president of the Punjab Congress Committee on July 18. The state party will also have four working presidents — Sangat Singh Gilzian, Sukhwinder Singh Danny, Pawan Goel and Kuljit Singh Nagra.
The AICC panel comprised leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, general secretary (Punjab) Harish Rawat and J.P. Aggarwal.
The agenda includes issues surrounding action in 2015 sacrilege cases, drug menace, liquor, transport and mining mafia, besides working a way out on power purchase agreements with private companies, among others.
In his first reaction to the July 18 announcement that followed days of turmoil and uncertainty, Sidhu remained unrelenting on his tirade against Amarinder. Sidhu talked about his father, a Congress worker, “leaving a royal household” to join the freedom struggle.
Amarinder’s father was the ruler of the former princely state of Patiala.
“To share prosperity, privilege and freedom not just among a few but among all, my father a Congress worker left a royal household and joined freedom struggle, was sentenced to death for his patriotic work reprieved by King’s Amnesty became DCC President, MLA, MLC and Advocate General (sic),” Sidhu tweeted.
“Today, to work further for the same dream and strengthen the invincible fort of the Congress, Punjab, I am grateful to Hon’ble Congress President Sonia Gandhi Ji, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Ji for bestowing their faith in me and giving me this pivotal responsibility,” he tweeted.
“Will work along every member of Congress family in Punjab to fulfill the mission of #JittegaPunjab as a humble Congress worker to give power of the people back to the people through the #PunjabModel and the high command’s 18-point agenda … My Journey has just begun!!”
The appointment of four working presidents shows the party trying to balance out the elevation of Sidhu by meeting Amarinder’s demand that Hindus and Dalits be represented.
But none of the names was overseen by Amarinder, so the Congress’s Punjab solution is seen more as a snub to the Chief Minister, who had resisted the elevation of Sidhu to the top party post ahead of the Assembly polls next year.
Singh had asked the party leadership to be involved in key decisions and given a free hand with the appointment of working presidents. His reported demand for a public apology from Sidhu over his open attacks was not met.
The July 19 developments indicate the truce between the two sides will take days to sink in. Media reports said Sidhu was in Mohali, near Chandigarh, and so was the CM on July 19. But the much-anticipated Sidhu-Amarinder meeting did not materialize. The new state party chief will be in Patiala – the hometown of the CM — on Tuesday (July 20), but there was no meeting planned between the two sides, party sources said.