Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh agrees to a Congress plan to promote rival Navjot Singh Sidhu as the party's state president and arrest the simmering revolt but lists certain terms for a solution. Captain Singh's assent comes after a meeting with Congress's Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat who flew in a helicopter from Delhi to meet the Chief Minister in Chandigarh. Captain Singh agrees to accept any decision taken by party chief Sonia Gandhi. However, Captain has said he should be involved by the party leadership while taking important decisions and that Sidhu's appointment should complement his efforts in helping the party come back to power in the next year's elections. The 79-year-old CM also demanded that he be given a free hand in reshuffling his cabinet and in the appointment of working presidents under Sidhu. But in signs that not every difference had been swept under the rug, Amarinder Singh is also learnt to have told Rawat that he will not meet Sidhu till he publicly expresses regret or apologises for his tweets against him.
Amid the ‘tussle’ over talks of appointing Navjot Singh Sidhu as the new state Congress chief, ‘sulking’ Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh met Congress state in-charge Harish Rawat here on Saturday and categorically told him that he won’t meet Sidhu until he apologises for his ‘derogatory’ tweets.
Reiterating that he would accept any decision taken by interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Amarinder Singh termed the meeting with Rawat as fruitful, adding that the latter would take up the issues raised by him with Sonia Gandhi.
The meeting between the two senior Congress leaders lasted for over an hour.
Minutes after the meeting, Amarinder Singh’s media advisor Raveen Thukral tweeted a statement by the CM that said: “Had a fruitful meeting with @harishrawatcmuk. Reiterated that any decision of @INCIndia President will be acceptable to all. Raised certain issues which he said he’ll take up with @INCIndia president.”
AICC General Secretary Rawat reached Chandigarh on Saturday morning to meet Amarinder Singh. He returned to Delhi later in the day.
“I have just returned to Delhi after meeting Amarinder Singh Ji. I am glad that a lot of the things that are being discussed have been proven pointless and Captain Sahib has reiterated his important statement that any decision taken by the Congress president will be acceptable to all,” Rawat said in a tweet.
It has been reliably learnt that Rawat came to Chandigarh for a meeting between Amarinder Singh and his bete noire Sidhu, ahead of the official announcement of the latter’s appointment as the state unit chief by Sonia Gandhi.
However, an adamant Amarinder Singh, who is reportedly upset with Sidhu for targeting his government over the power crisis and the sacrilege issue, categorically told Rawat that there would be no rapprochement between the two until Sidhu apologises in public for his ‘derogatory tweets and interviews’, a senior Congress leader said.
Conveying the party’s decision, Rawat informed the Chief Minister that there would be three to four working presidents of his choice along with Sidhu. He would also be free to revamp his Cabinet, Rawat reportedly told the Punjab Chief Minister.
An announcement in this regard could be made anytime, he said.
Interestingly, amid the hectic political developments in Chandigarh, Sidhu, a former Cabinet minister in Punjab, called on state unit chief Sunil Jakhar at his residence in Panchkula, near here.
The duo held a meeting which is seen by the political circles as Sidhu’s effort to take everybody along in the party after he is eventually appointed as the state unit chief.
After the meeting, Sidhu called Jakhar his ‘elder brother’ and a ‘guiding force’. Jakhar, in turn, described Sidhu as a ‘capable man’.
Later, Sidhu met Cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa and Balbir Singh Sidhu, besides meeting senior leader Lal Singh, a close confidant of the Chief Minister, and legislators Raja Warring, Kulbir Zira, Darshan Brar and Barindermeet Singh.
Randhawa told the media after the meeting that “all is well in the party”.
“Seeking guidance of presidents of the illustrious Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Conversations with wise men worth months of Education!!” Sidhu tweeted.
On Friday, Amarinder Singh had written to Sonia Gandhi, warning that the party would split if Sidhu is given charge of the state Congress.
In his letter, the Chief Minister had said that he will not contest under Sidhu if he is elevated to the top organisational post in the state.
The letter was delivered to Sonia Gandhi at her residence in Delhi before she met cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu on Friday.
Earlier, Harish Rawat flew to Chandigarh to meet a sulking chief minister Amarinder Singh. Sources say the chief minister wrote back to Congress president Sonia Gandhi that the party will split if Navjot Sidhu is given charge of the Punjab Congress.
Sources say Amarinder Singh in his letter had said, that he will not contest under Navjot Singh Sidhu if he is elevated to the top organizational post of the state.
On Friday, Harish Rawat and Sidhu had met Sonia and Rahul Gandhi but the meeting ended early, sources said.
After the meeting, Harish Rawat said, “I have submitted a note to the party president and as she decides it will be made public.”
When asked whether Sidhu will be made party president, Rawat responded: “Who said Sidhu will be made party president”?
Sidhu, after leaving Sonia Gandhi’s residence at 10 Janpath did not speak to the media.
The meeting came in the wake of speculation that Sidhu is likely to be made the state Congress president, which had upset Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, sources said.
Sources said the Congress was mulling an idea of appointing a Dalit and an upper-caste Hindu as the working presidents. But, Amarinder Singh’s unhappiness has compelled the party to think otherwise. (IANS)