Unease palpable as Navjot Sidhu takes reins of Punjab Congress

Holds 2-hr meet with 5 ministers, MLAs to chalk out poll strategy | Will begin tour of constituencies soon

Chandigarh, July 23

Amid party leaders working hard to bring together Capt Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu on stage at the latter’s installation ceremony as the new PCC chief at the Punjab Congress Bhawan here, palpable unease among the rival camps indicated beginning of yet another round of infighting.

Punjab affairs in charge Harish Rawat specially flew to Chandigarh to ensure that the ceremony went smoothly. But simmering differences were visible as the MLAs and MPs loyal to the CM left immediately after the on-stage function, without attending the symbolic exercise of Sidhu assuming the charge.

Sidhu’s daughter Rabia was seen sitting among party MLAs

Barring Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu and MP Shamsher Singh Dullo, who did not attend the ceremony, all other MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha arrived in a special chartered plane.

On the party high command advice, the CM showed political wisdom in joining the stage with Sidhu and repeatedly acknowledged the latter’s elevation. However, on the other hand, Sidhu touched feet of several senior party leaders, but not the CM. Little discussion took place between the two leaders, as their body language did not seem comfortable.

A senior party leader said: “The top brass has clearly indicated that in the succession, Sidhu would replace Capt Amarinder. Until then, there will be a lot of turmoil.”

Earlier in the day, there was unease at the Punjab Congress Bhawan when Sidhu suddenly left as the CM, Harish Rawat, party MLAs and MPs were having tea. On returning, Sidhu told Rawat that he had gone to a nearby gurdwara. — TNS

Rival camps hint at yet another round of infighting

Tension on stage

  • CM on stage, PCC chief touches feet of senior leaders, not Capt Amarinder’s
  • In his address, the CM twice reminded Sidhu to listen to his speech. Sidhu, who was talking to Jakhar, responded by gesturing in acknowledgement
  • As Sidhu stood to greet Fatehgarh Sahib MP Dr Amar Singh, the latter ignored him while moving forward to greet the CM, who was seated next to the PCC chief
  • Ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Bajwa and Sukhbinder Sarkaria, who had been rallying behind Sidhu, did not come on stage despite Sidhu’s repeated requests
  • Three ministers loyal to the CM — Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Rana Gurmit Sodhi — were on the stage
  • Jakhar took a swipe at ministers in Majha brigade, who have been instrumental in elevation of Sidhu. “You forgot to call me as the outgoing PCC chief for the installation ceremony to hand over the charge to Sidhu. I am still a Congressman,” he said
  • General mood among the party workers was upbeat as they chanted Sidhu’s name repeatedly when the CM was addressing the crowd
  • After The Tribune highlighted the PCC chief’s accommodation in Punjab Congress Bhavan has been lying in disuse, Sidhu on Friday announced that he would reopen the premises by August 15
Vinod Kumar, a Sidhu fan from Panipat, at the installation ceremony in Chandigarh.

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