“My stand remains the same,” announced former Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu after the end of his meeting with the three-member AICC panel amplifying a huge challenge the Congress high command faces in resolving the Punjab unit crisis.
A visibly confident Sidhu arrived at the meeting venue around 11.30 am and at the two-hour-long meeting is reported to have reiterated his stand on the Kotkapura firing issue and how the Punjab government lead by Captain Amarinder Singh had ‘failed’ to ‘expose’ the role of Badals in the firing case.
The ex-minister who quit the Cabinet in July 2019 after being divested of the local bodies portfolio for power had chosen to stay in the political wilderness till the high court trashed the government-appointed SIT and absolved Badals in the case. He had launched a direct attack on the Chief Minister virtually accusing him of siding with the Akali Dal leadership precipitating a crisis in the Punjab unit.
“Upon being summoned by the Congress high command, I came here to appraise the AICC committee about Punjab. I have alerted the committee to the truth of Punjab and eloquently echoed the voice of the people of the State, of the grassroots. The most important issue is that my previous stand on Punjab and issues concerning Punjab remains unchanged,” Sidhu said after meeting the committee.
Sidhu said his top agenda is that the power of the people of Punjab, the taxes they pay, should return to the people in whatever form possible. “Today, I have shone light on the truth. Truth can be eclipsed but it cannot be defeated. Punjab will win. We have to ensure the victory of Punjab. Every citizen of Punjab has to be made a participant in governance. We have to defeat all anti-Punjab forces,” said the MLA from East Amritsar, adding: “Punjab, Punjabiyat and each Punjabi will win.”
The AICC panel is also meeting MLAs in batches of 25 daily and is expected to meet the chief minister on Thursday before submitting a report to the high command.
Sources said that with Sidhu sticking to his stand, the panel would have to do a tight-rope walk while evolving a consensus in the party. While it cannot afford to dislodge an incumbent chief minister of a State which it rules without any support from allies, the party can ill afford to ignore the ‘vote catching’ abilities of Sidhu at a time when it was being drubbed in polls across the country.
The party high command is also weighing its other options as well including two Deputy CMs, one of which could be a Dalit and the other could go to Sidhu. The party sources also indicated that the panel would also look at the option of handing over the reins of the Punjab Congress to Sidhu, though there are inherent fears that it could result in two power centres in the State, something that the party cannot afford as a run-up to the polls.
With the chief minister expected to meet the panel on Thursday, it now remains to be seen how much ‘flexibility’ he shows in offering a truce to his ex-cabinet colleague.