Amarinder confident Navjot Singh Sidhu will rejoin his Cabinet

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Chandigarh, Mar 18 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday expressed confidence that Navjot Singh Sidhu will be back in his Cabinet, nearly two years after the cricketer-turned-politician quit the government after being divested of a key portfolio.

Singh's statement came a day after the two Congress leaders met at the chief minister's farmhouse near here, where they had discussed Sidhu's possible reinduction into the state Cabinet.

'Everyone wants Navjot to be part of our team,' Singh told a press conference here Thursday, replying to a question on the meeting.

He was addressing a press conference to mark the completion of four years of his government.

Their 40-minute meeting between them came amid speculations over Sidhu's return to the government. 'We had a very cordial meeting. He had tea with me,' the chief minister said, adding the meeting could not take place over lunch because of his other engagements.

'He has sought some time. Let him have his time. And then he will come back to us. I am sure he will be part of our team,' Singh said of Sidhu.

Asked if Sidhu wanted to be the deputy chief minister or the Punjab Congress chief, Singh said it was up to the Congress president to decide these matters.

'Not my decision nor Sunil ji's (PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar) decision. It is for CP (Congress president) to decide whatever they wish to,' he said, adding in a lighter vein, 'If he wants my job he can have it.' Singh also said that he knew Sidhu since he was just two years old.

The chief minister's media advisor had also shared on Twitter photographs of the two leaders together, indicating a thaw in their strained relations.

For the past several weeks, the Congress circles have been abuzz with speculation over a key cabinet berth for Sidhu again. There has also been talk of appointing him the state Congress president.

The rift between Singh and Sidhu had come out in the open in May 2019 when the CM blamed him for the 'inept handling' of the Local Government Department, claiming it had resulted in the 'poor performance' of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.

Sidhu was later stripped of this portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle, following which he had resigned.

To another question, the CM said he would also be happy to have Congress MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Dullo as part of the team.

While everyone has their own ambitions, it is up to the Congress President to decide. 'In a difficult hour, you have to set aside your own ambitions and stand with the party,' he, however, said.

Both Bajwa and Dullo had last year targeted their party-led government over the spurious liquor tragedy that claimed more than 100 lives. He had petitioned the Punjab governor for a probe by the CBI as well as the ED into the alleged 'illegal' liquor trade.

Later, Punjab cabinet ministers had demanded immediate expulsion of the Rajya Sabha MPs from the Congress for their criticism of the state government over the hooch tragedy. PTI CHS VSD TIR TIR