Disquiet in Punjab Congress as party leaders await Sidhu’s next move

Kanchan Vasdev
After it became evident that Amarinder did not toe the high command s line on retaining Sidhu, most of the party leaders kept their cards close to their chests by not openly supporting either Amarinder or Sidhu. (File Photo)

A day after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh accepted his colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu s resignation from the Cabinet, there was disquiet in the Congress camp over as none of the leaders welcomed or opposed the development.

All eyes remained on Sidhu as to what would be his next course of action. No party leaders came out openly either to support him or oppose him.

Sidhu, meanwhile, visited the official bungalow Sunday, a day after vacating it. He personally handed over the keys of the house while following the rules that make it mandatory for the allottee to personally hand over the possession. He refused to speak to the media and later tweeted about vacating his house.

After it became evident that Amarinder did not toe the high command s line on retaining Sidhu, most of the party leaders kept their cards close to their chests by not openly supporting either Amarinder or Sidhu.

A few MLAs said they were waiting and watching before saying anything on record. It feels like an uneasy calm. I am just wondering if a storm is awaiting us, said an MLA who was earlier seen openly with Sidhu. Later, he distanced himself from him.

A senior leader reckoned that Sidhu may create problems for the party by forming a third front. But another leader said there was no hope in Punjab for a third front. He may not succeed but his resignation has revived the narrative that there was a need for a third front in the state.

People in Punjab have a penchant for leaders who rebel. Amarinder became their leader when he rebelled against Sonia Gandhi and passed a legislation on SYL refusing to allow a drop of water to Haryana. Then they sided with him when he ousted Bajwa and even made some remarks on Rahul Gandhi. Now, they see Sidhu rebelling and raising anti-Badal issues that resonate with masses. What has the Congress done? The transport policy has not been able to hit Badals, sand mining situation has worsened. Bargari issue has not reached a logical conclusion. What has changed? It is business as usual. And the people can see this, said a party leader on condition of anonymity.

Sidhu is not the only Amarinder baiter, who has bitten the dust in fight with the CM. Starting from former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa, Amarinder has managed to corner other leaders in the party too. In fact, Amarinder had waged a war of sorts against Bajwa, to get him removed as PPCC chief. During those days, Amarinder had even hit out at Rahul Gandhi for backing Bajwa in Punjab.

Another senior ex-Congress leader Jagmeet Brar, who was once known as Punjab di Awaaz was completely sidelined and thrown out of the party by the incumbent CM. A former Deputy Speaker in Vidhan Sabha, Bir Devinder Singh too was thrown out of Congress.

Interestingly, while Brar joined SAD and has to stick to party line of not attacking Sidhu, none of the other leaders have come out in support of Sidhu. Bhattal is now Vice President of Planning Board of the state. But Bajwa and former PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo, both Rajya Sabha members, who have often hit out at Amarinder are also maintaining a studied silence on the issue.