NEW DELHI: Nearly two months after Amarinder Singh quit as the chief minister of Punjab, the infighting in the Congress’s Punjab unit showed no signs of abating as mercurial state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu trained his guns on the new dispensation led by Charanjit Singh Channi.
The cricketer-turned-politician, who was constantly at loggerheads with Amarinder, is now questioning the appointments of the state DGP and advocate general made by the new dispensation.
Addressing a press conference, Sidhu announced the decision to withdraw his resignation as the Punjab Congress chief, over a month after he took the decision to step down from the post. However, he said he will take charge of the office once the new advocate general is appointed.
Describing himself as a soldier of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, Sidhu put the Channi government in the dock over the handling of the sensitive sacrilege issue as well as the drug problem in the state.
“In 2017, a government fell and another was formed on two issues. Four and a half years later, a chief minister went and another came on the same two issues,” Sidhu said, adding these were matters close to every Punjabi’s heart.
Tussle over key appointments
“When it comes to sacrilege cases or the drug issue, the two most important key functionaries are the state DGP and the advocate general,” Sidhu said.
He claimed that DGP Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, appointed by Channi, was the “blue-eyed boy” of former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini. Sidhu alleged that Sahota had headed the SIT that looked into the sacrilege episode and given a “clean chit” to SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Sidhu also questioned the appointment of advocate general APS Deol.
Deol, Sidhu claimed, while trying to seek bail for Saini in court, had suggested that the sacrilege cases be handed over to the CBI. The person who had no faith in the state government has been appointed by the state government as advocate general, Sidhu said.
Sidhu’s consistent opposition is cited as one of the reasons for Amarinder Singh’s exit from the Congress. However, sharp differences have arisen between Channi and Sidhu over these two appointments.
“Why was the previous chief minister removed?” Sidhu asked as he questioned the appointments on Friday.
This hurts the trust of 3 crore Punjabis, he said.
“I defend my name fiercely,” and the party demands it. It is not my personal issue. The day these two are not in these posts, every Congress worker across Punjab will become the ‘star-pracharak’ for the party.
“It is just a government of 90 days,” he said, adding that soon the party will have to answer people in the 12,000 villages of the state.
Sidhu had earlier resigned as state party chief but decided to continue after some cajoling by the Congress high command. The cricketer-turned politician linked the issues to “moral authority” and the interests of the people. He claimed he had no differences with anyone, including Channi.
‘Make STF report public’
Sidhu sought to know what the Channi government had done in its short stint to address the sacrilege and drugs issues.
He asked what stopped them from making the Special Task Force (STF) on drugs public. He said that if the government lacked courage, it should hand it over to the party.
Face for next polls
During the press conference, Sidhu was asked who would be the face for the upcoming Punjab polls. He said it will be decided by the people of Punjab.
“Face will be decided by the people of Punjab. By the workers,” he said. A person who has won six elections does not need to prove anything, he added.
Channi is the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab while Sidhu hails from the dominant Jat-Sikh community. Both hold sway across sections of the state. The party has been claiming that it would go to the polls under their joint leadership.
Discomfort within the party
There have been reports that Sidhu’s public outbursts against the party’s government has caused unease among certain sections of the state Congress.
Sidhu had targeted Amarinder Singh on a range of issues, including the sacrilege cases. However, Sidhu has been unfazed.
In the press conference, Sidhu claimed he was making the comments as he valued truth and “moral authority”. He also claimed that he had resisted lure including ministerial berths to fight for the people.
Either we have to extend lollypops or we genuinely make Punjab a welfare state.
Show of unity
Meanwhile, the Congress leadership has been trying to bring its warring generals on the same page.
Sidhu and Channi had earlier visited Kedarnath together in what was also considered by some as a “patch-up” exercise.
Sidhu claimed he lauded the government when it is due. It was a wonderful thing when power rates were slashed, he said.




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