11 Punjab MLAs come out in support of Amarinder; Sidhu meets several legislators, leaders

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Chandigarh, Jul 18 (PTI) Amid the possibility of Navjot Singh Sidhu being made the Punjab Congress chief, 11 MLAs on Sunday came out in support of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh whom they called the 'tallest leader of masses' and appealed to the party high command not to let him down.

Cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu, in the meantime, stepped up his efforts and reached out to more party leaders and legislators for their support.

In another development, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, who is likely to lose his job in the revamp of the state unit, has called a meeting of party legislators and district unit presidents on Monday to pass a resolution expressing support to any decision taken by party president Sonia Gandhi.

Jakhar's statement came amid suspense over the much-awaited announcement from the party high command on the resolution of festering internal feud in the Punjab Congress.

There are reports that Sidhu is likely to be appointed as the state Congress chief. There is also talk of appointing working presidents to balance the caste equations.

The possible changes have triggered a flurry of meetings in Delhi and Punjab. Nine out of 11 Congress MPs from the state met at the residence of Partap Singh Bajwa in Delhi on Sunday and are learnt to have discussed the current political situation.

Ten legislators issued a joint statement in support of Amarinder Singh, saying he is the tallest leader of masses.

Seven Congress legislators and three rebel AAP MLAs who recently switched over to the ruling party also said Sidhu was a celebrity and no doubt an asset to the party, but added that his open criticism of the party and the government has only created a rift among cadre and weakened the organisation.

The joint statement was issued by Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

The seven party legislators in the group are Kuldeep Singh Vaid, Fatehjang Bajwa, Gurpreet Singh GP, Santokh Singh, Balwinder Singh Ladi, Joginderpal and Harminder Singh Gill.

Besides Khaira, two rebel AAP legislators in the group are Jagdev Singh Kamalu and Pirmal Singh Khalsa. Three of them had switched over to the Congress in June.

In the statement, the legislators urged the party high command not to let down Amarinder Singh, saying because of his unrelenting efforts the party stands well entrenched in Punjab.

They said that while the appointment of a state unit chief was the prerogative of the party high command, “washing dirty linen” in public has only decreased the party's graph during the last couple of months.

They said that Amarinder Singh commanded immense respect across different sections of the society, particularly the farmers.

The MLAs said since merely six months were left for the elections, pulling the party into the different directions will only “harm” its prospects in the 2022 polls.

Another Congress legislator, Navtej Singh Cheema, said it was not possible to form the next government without Amarinder Singh.

'I do not think there is any leader of such a stature,” said Cheema while appealing to the high command to resolve the issue at the earliest.

Sidhu, who has been at loggerheads with Singh, on Sunday met party MLAs in Patiala, Khanna and Jalandhar where he received a warm welcome.

He first met Ghanaur legislator Madan Lal Jalalpur at his residence. Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, MLAs Barindermeet Singh Pahra and Darshan Brar were also present at Jalalpur's residence.

Sidhu also met MLA Nirmal Singh from Shutrana constituency. Later, he met Khanna legislator Gurkirat Singh Kotli and Payal MLA Lakhvir Singh Lakha.

Talking to reporters, Kotli said, “Whatever decision the party high command takes, we as soldier of the party will accept it.” To a question on Sidhu, Kotli called the cricketer-turned-politician a charismatic leader and said there is a great enthusiasm among people towards him.

Sidhu then went to Jalandhar to meet senior party leader Avtar Henry, MLAs Pargat Singh, Sangat Singh Gilzian, and Avtar Singh Junior.

In a statement, incumbent president Jakhar said that at Monday's meeting, all the MLAs and district presidents would pass a resolution that whatever decision the party high command takes regarding Punjab would be acceptable to the entire state unit.

This resolution will then be sent to Sonia Gandhi, said Jakhar.

The decision to call a meeting by Jakhar was opposed by Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira who said the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) had already been dissolved.

'I urge @sunilkjakhar not to indulge in show of strength and wait for the announcement of Congress President. Even otherwise the PPCC stands dissolved so the meeting would have no locus standi and would be invalid. It's time to unite and not divide!” said Khaira in a tweet.

In 2020, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had dissolved the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and all district committees in the state. However, state unit president Sunil Jakhar remained in the post.

After the meeting of party MPs in Delhi, Bajwa said there was no factionalism in the Punjab Congress and the leadership has said that the elections would be fought under the leadership of the chief minister.

'Any decision taken by the party president Sonia Gandhi will be acceptable to all,' Bajwa told reporters when asked about the appointment of a new Pradesh Congress Committee chief.

Bajwa has also thrown his hat in the ring and held a series of meetings. These include one with the chief minister last evening. PTI CHS VSD SKC SMN SMN

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