Politics

As rift deepens in Punjab Congress, Sidhu says Amarinder ‘running govt with Badal family’

File photo of Capt Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu | ANI
File photo of Capt Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu | ANI


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Chandigarh: Congress MLA and former Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been publicly engaged in a spat with Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, fired a fresh salvo Sunday, alleging that the “Badal family” of rival Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was running the government instead of the party.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Sidhu alleged that Singh was running the government in collaboration with former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family, while Congress MLAs were being ignored. Alleging that corruption had continued in the state even after the Badals were voted out of power in 2017, Sidhu said the aim of the government was to continue with the “Mafia Raj”.

 

Sidhu’s fresh attack on the chief minister comes at a time when he and Singh have locked horns over a recent decision of the high court quashing the state police’s investigation into an incident of police firing during the protests triggered by desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in 2015, when the Badals were in power.

After assuming office in 2017, Singh had launched an investigation into the incident and it was expected by Congress members that the Badals would be indicted in the investigation.

However, on 9 April, the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed the Punjab Police investigation into the firing, passing severe strictures against Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, the head of the investigating team. The court, meanwhile, gave a clean chit to the Badals in the incident.

Sidhu has been upset with the chief minister for over a year now, after the latter held the former cricketer responsible for the party’s poor performance in the state’s urban areas in the 2019 parliamentary elections and divested him of key portfolios. Sidhu resigned from Singh’s cabinet in protest.

Since last month, Sidhu has been attacking the Chief Minister on social media for failing to supervise the investigation.

Many others within the party agree with Sidhu and have displayed their displeasure independently.

With assembly elections in the state due next year, the chief minister also lashed out at Sidhu in two television interviews last month, alleging that he wanted to leave the Congress and was in talks with Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Sidhu’s tweet Sunday, however, seemed to have been aimed to clarify that he had no intentions of leaving the Congress, as he referred to other party legislators as “our MLAs”.

Amarinder Singh has constituted a new three-member SIT to complete the investigation into the Kotkapura firing incident, preferably in six months, in keeping with the court’s orders. The fact that the SIT has been given six months for the investigation hasn’t gone down well with those upset with the chief minister.


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Team Sidhu vs the CM?

Sidhu’s fresh attack on Singh is significant as it comes days after he held a meeting with at least half a dozen Congress members, at a secret destination in Panchkula Wednesday, to discuss their disenchantment with the chief minister, especially his handling of the 2015 incident.

“We are not trying to gather MLAs with us or form a group which intends to revolt but we are concerned about Guru and gareeb (the poor). These are the two issues on which we do not intend to compromise. We had met to discuss how the damage done to the party can be corrected, but we have no intention whatsoever of stepping out of line,” cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who was part of the meeting with Sidhu, told ThePrint Saturday.

Jalandhar MLA Pargat Singh, a close friend of Sidhu who was also part of the meeting, added that he had highlighted many issues in a letter to the CM last year. When the letter had no effect, he was forced to speak out publicly, he said.

State minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who had offered to resign from the cabinet in the wake of the high court decision, was also a part of the meeting. The others who met Sidhu included Faridkot MLA Kusaldeep Singh Kikki Dhillon, Shri Hargobindpur MLA Balwinder Singh Ladi, Gurdaspur MLA Barindermeet Singh Pahra and Qadian MLA Fatehjung Singh Bajwa.

“At least 47 of the total 77 MLAs in the assembly are against the chief minister because of the way he handled the desecration investigations. We are not revolting against Amarinder [Singh], but the public needs to know who is at fault,” said a leader who attended the meeting but requested anonymity.

The time given to the new SIT to complete the investigation has also irked many of the MLAs.

“The fact that the new SIT has been given six months to complete the probe also shows that Amrinder is not serious about the desecrations. In six-seven months, elections will be declared and we would have nothing to show to the people whom we had promised justice in the desecration cases,” added another MLA.

Sidhu had Saturday tweeted that the SIT’s six-month tenure “extends the delay of Govt’s biggest poll promise, unfortunately up-to next elections code of conduct”.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


Also read: Punjab’s frustration & anger is rooted in its steep decline, now visible in farmers’ protests


 

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