Chandigarh: The power tussle between the camps of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state Congress chief Navjot Sidhu intensified Tuesday. Four cabinet ministers and several party legislators known to be Sidhu loyalists openly pitched for Amarinder’s removal. They said Amarinder Singh has failed to fulfil some key poll promises.
Sidhu too was targeted by a group of Punjab ministers and MLAs, loyal to Amarinder Singh. They demanded strong action against his two advisors over their ‘patently anti-national and pro-Pakistan comments’. These MLAs warned the comments could cause massive damage to the Congress in the run-up to the Punjab Assembly polls due in less than six months.
The two advisors of Sidhu have sparked a massive row with their comments. Malvinder Singh Mali had claimed that ‘Kashmir is a country of Kashmiri people’. Anoter advisor Pyare Lal Garg had taken a swipe at Amarinder for criticising Pakistan. Garg had said it is not in Punjab’s interest.
Earlier, Amarinder had asked Sidhu to ‘rein in’ his advisors. He had described their remarks as atrocious and ill-conceived. Earlier Congress MP Manish Tewari had asked Monday if such people should be kept in the party.
The Punjab chief minister faced an open revolt from the rival camp in the party Tuesday.
Four ministers – Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Charanjit Singh Channi – and around two dozen legislators met here at the residence of Bajwa, a known detractor of Amarinder.
When asked if an attempt was being made to oust the chief minister, Bajwa told reporters it’s not an attempt but the demand of the people. To a question on the new face, he said that decision will be taken by the party high command.
Bajwa said they would seek time to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and apprise her of the political situation in Punjab. He said ‘drastic’ steps need to be taken and if there is a need to change the chief minister, then it should be done.
The Congress’ recent efforts to quell dissent in the state unit with Sidhu’s appointment have come a cropper and the developments are expected to deepen the crisis in the state unit.
“Today the situation is such that our issues are not being resolved with the chief minister (Amarinder Singh) and that is why we are going to meet the party high command,” said Channi.
Meanwhile, the chief minister’s loyalists targeted Sidhu.
“The remarks by Sidhu’s newly appointed advisors were clearly against India’s interests, and detrimental to national security,” said ministers Brahm Mohindra, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, along with MLA Raj Kumar Verka, in a joint statement here.
The group of ministers and MLAs demanded stringent legal action against the advisors and urged the Congress national leadership to direct Sidhu to immediately rein in his aides in the interest of the party as well as India.
The Congress leaders also raised questions on Sidhu’s ‘failure’ to put his foot down on such ‘anti-national and pro-Pakistan diatribe’ by his close aides, despite the uproar it triggered across party lines.
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