Amarinder Singh, who quit as Punjab chief minister after being ‘humiliated’ by the Congress, met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday, fuelling speculation over his plans and adding to the crisis the party faces in the state ahead of the assembly polls.
The Shah-Singh meeting in Delhi capped developments during the day in Punjab, including the release of a video clip by Navjot Singh Sidhu, who gave a jolt to the party on Tuesday by resigning as its state unit president.
As state-level leaders tried to placate Sidhu, he made it clear through the video that he was in no mood to budge on his ‘principles’.
The clip in Punjabi suggested that he had resigned over the induction of ‘tainted’ people in the new Charanjit Singh Channi government.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal also arrived in Punjab on a two-day visit and called the recent developments in Punjab a ‘tamasha‘.
But he seemed to endorse Sidhu’s stand, asking Channi to shunt out ‘tainted’ people and fulfil the promises made by his predecessor.
On his part, Channi reached out to Sidhu, inviting the ex-cricketer for talks and saying that the party — and not the government — is supreme.
The party’s central leadership in Delhi remained mum on developments in Punjab with a spokesperson merely saying that Harish Rawat, the state’s in-charge at the All India Congress Committee, was keeping tabs.
But the ‘Group of 23′, made up of party leaders who have been seeking organisational reforms in the Congress, picked the day to voice concern over developments in Punjab and elsewhere.
Senior party leader Kapil Sibal said what is happening to the Congress in Punjab gives an advantage to Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence, and recalled the state’s history.
He told reporters that such developments should be discussed at a party platform.
The meeting between Amit Shah and Amarinder Singh in Delhi triggered speculation on the possibility of the former CM seeking the Bharatiya Janata Party’s support.
Singh, however, said they discussed the farmers’ agitation.
The meeting came just days after the Congress veteran quit as chief minister and told reporters that he was free now to explore other options.
In Patiala, Sidhu kept himself confined to his home as state party leaders visited him, expressing support and asking him to change his mind.
In the video in Punjabi he uploaded on social media, the politician said, ‘Main te adu, te ladu (I will take a stand and fight)’.
Sidhu didn’t take names, but made it clear that he was upset by the induction of ‘tainted’ people in the new ministry and on government posts.
‘My father once told me that wherever there is any confusion, always walk on the path of truth with moral authority and without compromising on moral values,’ he said.
Apparently referring to Indian Police Service officer Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, who has been given the additional charge of the director general of Punjab Police, Sidhu said, ‘Today, I see there is compromise on those issues.’
Indirectly referring to the 2015 desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot, he said those who had given a clean chit to the Badals have been given the responsibility of delivering justice.
Sahota was the head of a special investigation team formed by the then Akali Dal government to probe the sacrilege incidents.
Sidhu also questioned the appointment of A P S Deol as the state’s new advocate general.
As a lawyer, Deol has defended former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in cases lodged against him.
‘Those who used to talk about issues, where are those issues now?’ he said in a barb apparently directed at Channi’s team.
A system which included ‘tainted’ leaders and officials is being brought back after being dismantled, he charged.
Sidhu is also said to be unhappy with the induction of Rana Gurjit Singh in the Channi-led Cabinet, months after the minister had to leave the Amarinder Singh government following accusations of impropriety in the auction of sand-mining contracts.
Sidhu was appointed the party’s state unit president on July 18 amid a bitter power tussle with Amarinder Singh, who stepped down as the chief minister earlier this month while accusing the party high command of humiliating him.
After much deliberation, the party high command picked Channi to replace Singh, making him the state’s first Dalit chief minister.
Some observers say that Sidhu is miffed because Channi is now taking his own decisions.
But after a Cabinet meeting in which his government decided on a major waiver of electricity bills, Channi told reporters that he had reached out to Sidhu.
‘I have spoken to Sidhu saheb over telephone today. The party is supreme and the government accepts the party’s ideology and follows that. (I told him that) you come, sit and talk,’ he said.