For dousing simmering discontentment within the Congress party cadre in Punjab against its own Government just after it crossed the mid-term mark, talks of bringing about a change in the Council of Ministers and giving “due place” to “sidelined” Navjot Singh Sidhu is believed to be gaining momentum.
Sidhu had only recently made a mark for himself with the State’s Sikh population with the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor and is being seen as a face that can stabilize the party’s wobbly ship in the rough political waters.
Known to share close proximity with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, Sidhu went into deep political hibernation after he formally resigned from the State Cabinet in July this year. His decision was in protest against the “punishment” of changing his portfolio when the Chief Minister blamed the former cricketer for party’s not-so-good performance in the urban pockets during 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
As Sidhu has been maintaining distance with the party and also limiting his public appearances since then, a section of party leaders wanted him to be back in the political mainstream, at least for the party.
Voices are growing louder against the “inaccessible” Capt Amarinder Singh within the party. Four MLAs, hailing from his home district Patiala, had come out in open against their own Government.
All the four party legislators — Hardyal Singh Kamboj (Rajpura), Rajinder Singh (Samana), Nirmal Singh (Shutrana), and Madan Lal Jalalapur (Ghanaur) — hail from Patiala, and part of Patiala parliamentary seat from where the Chief Minister’s wife Preneet Kaur is the Lok Sabha MP.
Accusing the Chief Minister of being inaccessible to his own MLAs and party leaders, they had raised their voice against the unbridled powers to handful bureaucrats leaving the elected representatives virtually powerless.
That is not all! Now even the party workers and district leaders are also airing their resentment against the party leadership for not fulfilling their pre-poll promises of eliminating drugs, punishing those guilty of sacrilege, generating employment, among others.
Taking note of all the developments in Congress’ Punjab unit, it has been learnt that the party high command has asked the state leadership to “suitably compensate” the cricketer-turned-politician who had been the star campaigner for the party.
On the other hand, told the sources in the Congress, the high command also wanted to bring about a change in the State Council.
Available information suggests that Sidhu, on the insistence of Congress’ central leadership, is set to make a comeback in the Cabinet — a move that will led to some changes in the portfolios or even change in faces.
“The party high command wants to give Sidhu his due. He cannot be asked to sit on the fence and just watch the match as he has been our most prominent player, and especially at a time when the people are crediting Sidhu for the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor,” a senior party leader told The Pioneer.
Sources informed that the central leadership has proposed to give Sidhu the post of Deputy Chief Minister. “Capt Amarinder, while campaigning during 2017 State Assembly Elections, had announced that this would be his last elections, and in case he decided not to contest, there should be someone, at least of a stature close to the Chief Minister, to take his place,” said a senior leader.
Besides, a section of leaders wanted that senior MLAs, who have been elected for more than three times, should also be inducted in the Cabinet. Names of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Rana Kanwar Pal Singh, former Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, Raj Kumar Verka, among others are doing the rounds.
Rana Gurjit, who is the Chief Minister’s close aide, was forced to quit in January 2018 after his name was surfaced in controversies related to the multi-crore rupee benami sand mining auctions.
It has been learnt that if the party high command prevailed upon the Chief Minister to re-induct Sidhu in the Cabinet, Capt Amarinder would also chose his “friend” Rana Gurjit.
As of now, voices within the state party unit are growing against the Government and the all powerful bureaucracy. The party leaders are workers alleged that they were not being heard despite being in power.
It has been alleged that the government is being run by the bureaucracy headed by the Chief Minister’s chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar, and not by Capt Amarinder.
A senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named, said that all filed are routed through Suresh Kumar, and is often referred to as the “Super CM” in Punjab's political circles.
Taking serious cognizance of the growing resentment, the state party leadership has initiated the process of holding series of meetings across the state with the party workers and leader to listen to their grievances and resolve them.
At the same time, the Chief Minister has also decided to meet all the party MLAs in groups next week to hear their grievances. It has been learnt that during the meeting, funds would be allocated to the legislators in the presence of Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar.