Ahead of party revamp, Navjot Sidhu meets Rahul, Priyanka

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New Delhi, Jun 30 (PTI) Amid continued infighting in the Punjab Congress, former state minister Navjot Singh Sidhu met party leader Rahul Gandhi at his residence here on Wednesday evening and is learnt to have discussed his role in the party after an organisational revamp.

Sidhu met the former Congress chief for an hour, a day after Gandhi denied that any meeting was scheduled between him and the Punjab MLA on Tuesday.

Though there was no word about what transpired during the crucial meeting, there was speculation that Sidhu may agree to his new role that the Gandhis have for him in the revamped state unit of the party ahead of next year's Assembly polls.

The cricketer-turned-politician did not speak to the media after meeting Gandhi and only greeted the waiting reporters with folded hands.

Sidhu also met All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at her residence here in the morning.

The day saw hectic activity as Priyanka Gandhi met Rahul Gandhi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi after meeting Sidhu. Later, Rahul Gandhi also had a long meeting with Sonia Gandhi at his residence.

AICC general secretary in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat and Mallikarjun Kharge, the head of the three-member AICC panel set up to end factionalism in Punjab, had a separate meeting and are learnt to have discussed the new formula being worked out.

Sidhu has refused to accept the deputy chief minister's post and is eyeing the post of state Congress chief. It is unlikely that he will be appointed as the state party chief as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also hails from the dominant Jat Sikh community like Sidhu. The two top positions are usually not given to the same community.

The meetings come ahead of a revamp of the party's Punjab unit and the state cabinet. The Congress leadership is trying to work out a formula to accommodate all sections and give a prominent role to Sidhu, either in the state cabinet or in the organisation. Sidhu is miffed with the chief minister ever since he quit the cabinet in 2019.

The meetings also come in the wake of continued infighting in the Punjab Congress with Sidhu at loggerheads with Singh. The Amritsar East MLA has gone public against the chief minister.

The crucial meetings come amid talks of the Congress leadership making efforts to bring all leaders together ahead of next year's Assembly polls and present a united face of the party.

The Congress high-command does not want Sidhu to quit the party at this crucial stage when elections are only a few months away in Punjab and is trying to work out a formula between Singh and the former state minister.

Rahul Gandhi has met almost all prominent Congress leaders from Punjab, including MLAs, MPs, ministers and former state party chiefs.

Sidhu earlier said he had a long meeting with Priyanka Gandhi.

'Had a long meeting with @priyankagandhi Ji,' he tweeted, along with a picture with the Congress general secretary.

Sidhu, who had resigned from the Punjab cabinet after he was divested of the local bodies portfolio in 2019, has been at loggerheads with Singh.

He has attacked the chief minister over the alleged delay in justice in the 2015 incidents of sacrilege in the state and the subsequent police firing.

The chief minister had slammed Sidhu for continuously attacking him over the sacrilege issue and described his outbursts as 'total indiscipline'.

Earlier this month, Sidhu had appeared before the three-member panel set up by the Congress to resolve the infighting within the party's state unit.

On June 22, Singh appeared before the panel, headed by Kharge, in Delhi. However, he returned to Chandigarh without an audience with party president Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. PTI SKC RC

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