Amidst escalating political turmoil in Punjab and growing dissent over the proposed alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, senior Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday made a strong and symbolic statement likening the pan-India opposition INDIA bloc to an unyielding mountain, signifying its strength and stability even in the face of occasional storms.
Sidhu's statement resonates with the ongoing internal discord within the Punjab Congress, where prominent leaders like state party chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha Partap Singh Bajwa have openly opposed the idea of forming an alliance with AAP. The recent arrest of Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira on drug-related charges, dating back to 2015, has further ignited tensions within the party.
In a tweet posted on Sunday, Sidhu boldly declared, “The I.N.D.I.A alliance stands like a tall mountain…a storm here and there will not affect its Grandeur!!! Any attempt to sabotage and breach this shield to safeguard our Democracy will prove futile. Punjab must understand that this is an election to choose India’s Prime Minister and not Punjab’s Chief Minister.”
Sidhu's message underscored the significance of the INDIA alliance, emphasizing the broader national context of the 2024 elections. Punjab Congress’ former president urged his party leaders to put aside their differences and rally behind the alliance, reinforcing the idea that this election is about selecting India's Prime Minister, not Punjab's Chief Minister.
The ongoing turmoil within the Punjab Congress has been exacerbated by the recent arrest of Khaira, who was taken into custody by the Punjab Police on charges related to drug trafficking, stemming from a 2015 case. Following his arrest, Khaira was produced in a court in Fazilka's Jalalabad and remanded in police custody for two days, followed by 14-day judicial custody.
Khaira’s arrest triggered a swift and strong reaction from the Congress leaders, who directed their frustration towards the AAP, currently in power in both Punjab and Delhi. The arrest has become a flashpoint in the ongoing political drama, with various factions within the Punjab Congress taking positions on the issue.
RaGa on ‘personal’ Amritsar visit today
In contrast to the internal discord within the Congress, party’s former national president Rahul Gandhi will be on a personal visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Monday. The visit is notable for its timing, as it occurs against the backdrop of escalating tensions between the Congress and AAP leaders in the border state.
There are ongoing discussions about the two parties contesting the Lok Sabha polls together as a part of the INDIA bloc, a coalition aimed at challenging the ruling BJP on a national level.
Sources close to Rahul Gandhi have clarified that his visit to the Golden Temple is entirely personal and unrelated to any party-related meetings. Rahul Gandhi's visit is expected to be a spiritual one, focusing on paying his respects at the iconic Golden Temple, a symbol of religious and cultural significance for the Sikh community and India as a whole.
Rahul Gandhi’s arrival is anticipated at around 10 am on Monday, immediately following his landing at the airport. During his visit, he has expressed a desire to engage in sewa (service) at the Golden Temple, which may include tasks like assisting in the kitchen or participating in the langar (community kitchen) service — a communal meal that embodies the spirit of Sikh hospitality.
It is worth noting that this visit is not Rahul Gandhi's first to Amritsar. He had previously visited the city during his ‘Bharat Jodo’ yatra, and had paid his respects at the sanctum sanctorum, underscoring the personal significance of the sacred site for many Indians.
Sidhu, who had been relatively less active in politics following his release from jail earlier this year, has been gaining prominence once again. His recent statements and actions indicate a renewed commitment to shaping the political landscape in Punjab.
The previous week, he addressed the people of Punjab, advocating for a governance system based on principles of merit, fairness, opportunity, and sustainability. Sidhu also stressed the importance of a government relying on revenue rather than borrowing and indirect taxes.
In a surprising turn of events, Sidhu made an unannounced visit to the headquarters of the Punjab Government's Civil Aviation Department in Chandigarh last Wednesday. During his visit, he reportedly sought detailed information regarding the public expenditure related to Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's helicopter rides and air travel.
As political dynamics continue to evolve in Punjab, Rahul Gandhi's visit to the Golden Temple takes on personal significance while the state's political landscape remains fluid, marked by ongoing discussions and alliances that will shape its political future.