Congress Salvages Punjab, Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu Battle Rages On

Navjot Sidhu had accused the Chief Minister of being responsible for the denial of ticket to his wife Navjot Kaur from Chandigarh.

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Congress Salvages Punjab, Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu Battle Rages On

Tensions between Amarinder Singh, Navjot Sidhu worsened over distribution of ticket (File)


New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Amarinder Singh is seeking removal of Navjot Sidhu from the government
  2. Tensions between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu have been on for long
  3. The Congress won eight of Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats yesterday

A day after its traumatic defeat to the BJP, the Congress has been called upon to firefight in Punjab. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh -- who delivered the party's only decisive victory in a state -- has contacted the senior leadership of the party, demanding a change in Navjot Singh Sidhu's portfolio. Mr Singh is attending tomorrow's meeting of the Congress Working Committee, where Rahul Gandhi is expected to offer his resignation over the party's second straight defeat in the national election.

The Congress has won eight of Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats yesterday, yet there is massive infighting in the only state it did well. Yesterday, after the leads stabilised, Amarinder Singh said the party could have done better  in the urban areas of the state, especially Bathinda, if not for Navjot Sidhu's remarks on Pakistan and the ongoing investigation into the Guru Granth Sahib desecration.

The tension between the Chief Minister and Mr Sidhu that has been brewing for long, worsened over the distribution of ticket -- which was also at the bottom of his rift with the BJP.

This time, Mr Sidhu had accused the Chief Minister of being responsible for the denial of ticket to his wife Navjot Kaur from Chandigarh. He even went off work for more than 20 days without giving any explanation.

During the campaign, he had targeted the Chief Minister, questioning why no criminal case was registered against former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal over the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the police-firing incidents of 2015.

"If he was a real Congressman, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab," the Chief Minister had said during an informal interaction with reporters.

While the final decision was with the Congress's Central leadership, the party "does not tolerate indiscipline," the Chief Minster had hinted.

The two leaders have been at odds since the cricketer-turned-politician ditched the BJP and joined the Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly election in the state. But after the party's victory, Mr Sidhu, who had been keen on a deputy Chief Minister's post, had to contend with a ministerial berth.

Since then, he had embarrassed his party and his boss by a series of controversial moves and comments, including the much-criticised hug for Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and defence of cricketing buddy Imran Khan, who is now the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Amarinder Singh had not minced words when Navjot Sidhu was seen hugging the Pakistan army chief during his visit to Islamabad last August. "I'm against it... The man should understand that our soldiers are getting killed," the Chief Minister, a former army officer, had said. Recently he also said that Navjot Sidhu "probably" wants to be Chief Minister.



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