Over a fortnight after he resigned as Punjab Congress president, Navjot Singh Sidhu raised his issues at a meeting with senior party leaders at the Congress headquarters in Delhi on Thursday. He was summoned to the capital by AICC general secretary in charge of organisation KC Venugopal, and party general secretary in charge of Punjab Harish Rawat.
Speaking to The Indian Express after the meeting, Rawat said Sidhu told them that he would abide by the party leadership’s decision. “The direction from the party leadership is clear. He has been given the responsibility to strengthen the Congress in Punjab and inject enthusiasm. He should do that work,” Rawat said, when asked whether Sidhu would continue as the Punjab Congress president.
Rawat said Sidhu will make an official announcement on Friday. “You will get all the information about this tomorrow,” he said.
Speaking to reporters, Sidhu said: “I have raised my concerns on the Congress and Punjab to the panel. I have full faith in the Congress president, Priyanka ji and Rahul ji. Jo bhi nirnay lenge, woh Congress aur Punjab ke hit mein hoga (Whatever decision is taken will be for the benefit of Congress and Punjab). I will abide by whatever they say.”
Earlier in the day, speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange, Rawat said Sidhu had not pressed for acceptance of his resignation and pointed out that he was actively involved in party work. “I think he has discussed the issues which he raised — he has discussed it with the Chief Minister. On one issue, they have come to an understanding; on another issue, we will try to thrash out. I am quite hopeful. He has not pressed for the acceptance of his resignation,” said Rawat.
“His resignation is only on Twitter. We have seen it in the newspapers and media reports. He is very active on Congress issues. Recently in Lakhimpur, (on) the farmers’ issue… he was part of a march to Lakhimpur and courted arrest also. In Lakhimpur, he observed a fast… a one-day maun vrat also. So he is doing his political work,” Rawat said, when asked whether he was confident that Sidhu would continue as the state Congress chief.
Following Sidhu’s meeting with party leaders, a Congress source said: “Today, he has told the party about his issues. All this while, he was raising the issues largely on Twitter. We have heard him out. The party will soon make an announcement on his future.”
Sources said Sidhu has been asked to deal with the general secretary in-charge, instead of calling up Rahul and Priyanka directly. The party also sent out a message by appointing Siddharth Chattopadhayaya as Vigilance chief in Punjab. Sidhu was pushing for Chattopadhayaya to be the state DGP.
“All the issues that he has been raising appear to be public posturing. Earlier, it was Advocate General and DGP; yesterday, he raised the issues of sand and liquor; today, he talked about the delay in pay commission. Why is he raising all these issues in public? Why not at the party platform? Has he done what he promised? Did he sleep in the PPCC headquarters as he promised while taking over,” said a party source.
According to sources, Sidhu wanted an assurance that he should be the Congress’s next CM face in Punjab, “He does not say it in as many words but the pressing issue is that he wants to be the next CM face. Is it not clear from the video that went viral in which he was heard saying that ‘make Bhagwant Singh’s son the CM and then see’. Do people of Punjab not understand,” said a party leader.
Sources said that Sidhu has been asked to return to Punjab and work for the party. “Senior party leaders will sit together and take a call on what should be done
about Sidhu. The CWC meet is on Saturday. Senior Congress leaders will be busy tomorrow. If they are not able to take a call on Sidhu tomorrow, then the matter will be delayed by two-three days,” a source said.
Earlier, Sidhu posted his resignation as PPCC chief on Twitter. Subsequently, he met Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, in the presence of central observer Harish Chaudhary. While the party asked Sidhu to withdraw his resignation, he has not done so yet.
At the Idea Exchange, Rawat said the party knows that Sidhu is “governed by sentiments”. “In fact, there are certain issues which are very dear to him as well as for the Congress party… When he finds that there may be some hiccup or some weakness in dealing with the issues, he raises questions,” he said.
“And out of sentiment, he has tendered his resignation by tweet. It is not a practice in political parties, especially in the Congress. But knowing that he is always governed by sentiments, we have given him time. I think things will improve. We have discussed this matter with the Chief Minister and they will thrash out whatever is the small problem regarding two appointments,” he said.
Time running out
While the Congress leadership is putting up a brave face, asserting that all issues raised by Navjot Singh Sidhu will be sorted out, the fact that the party is still grappling with these issues even a month after the replacement of Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister is disheartening for the rank and file. The party has been on fire-fighting mode in Punjab for almost six months now. While the elections are approaching, the party is nowhere near finalising even its election management committees.