The ongoing political tussle of Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu with Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is evident to all by now as it has been raging for last two years since his exit from the cabinet. Ahead of crucial Punjab assembly elections scheduled to be held next year, the Congress party is seemingly torn between the two political poles within the party’s Punjab unit.
It is believed that even the high-command of Congress sitting in Delhi has also tried to pacify the feud between two senior leaders of the party. Speculations were rife that the disgruntled leader Sidhu could resolve issues with Singh and be offered a bigger role in the state unit, but nothing such happened so far.
The cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu’s tirade against the Chief Minister even earned him criticism from several of his cabinet colleagues, who had suggested that he should quit the party if he can’t work under Singh’s leadership.
Speaking to NDTV, Sidhu said that he was “willing to work with Amarinder Singh" but added a condition for his in-house adversary. “I am always ready to work with him but if issues are resolved," he said. This response came at a time when Amarinder Singh was called to Delhi for the second time by a panel constituted by Congress to recommend a solution to the infighting that will satisfy both side.
Meanwhile, let’s have a look at a brief timeline of how and when the relationship between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Amarinder Singh got bitter:
Both Singh and Sidhu met on March 18 over a tea for nearly 50 minutes in Mohali after which speculations were rife that the latter will be reinducted into the state cabinet. “It was a good meeting. We have a cordial relation and I am waiting for him to reply. I am sure he will decide on what is in favour of the party and the state," Amarinder Singh has said on being asked about the meeting. He added that he had known Sidhu for decades now and he will do what is good for the party and the state.
However, later in May, Sidhu once again attacked Singh over the 2015 Kotkapura firing, saying the Punjab and Haryana High court’s order to form a new SIT to probe the incident was accepted by the state government to “deflect” people’s attention. “Nefarious intentions are evident, No High Court stopped you in 4-1/2 yrs ! When DGP/CPS appointments are set aside, orders are challenged in Higher Courts in matter of hours. Now, first you attack the High Court, than from backdoor accept same orders to deflect People’s attention," Sidhu had alleged in a tweet.
Sidhu has been targeting the Chief Minister over the alleged delay in delivering justice in the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and post sacrilege police firing incident.
Both the leaders met on November 25 over a lunch, triggering speculation that Sidhu may be re-inducted into the state cabinet. A media adviser to the Chief Minister had then said that both leaders spent an hour together at Singh’s residence in Punjab and shared thoughts on various issues.
At that time, it was thought that the tensions between both leaders appeared to have eased when the Chief Minister praised the Amritsar MLA for the way he spoke in the assembly after the Congress government had moved a resolution and brought bills against the farm laws last month.
Sidhu’s portfolio was changed from the Local Bodies’ to the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy in this year. However, he did not assume charge of his new department. Singh had cited “inept” handling of local bodies department by Sidhu, which led to the Congress’s poor performance in urban areas, as the reason behind taking away the role. Even the state unit also did not give an election ticket to Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur.
The rift became even more evident when reacting to Sidhu’s mannerisms, Singh had said, “Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be chief minister.”
In the same year, Sidhu resigned from the Punjab Cabinet but what had raised eyebrows at the time was Sidhu’s move to send his resignation letter to Rahul Gandhi.
According to reports, Singh was not in the favour of Sidhu when he joined the Congress in 2017 just ahead of the Punjab assembly election. It became a little evident when Sidhu in November 2018 publicly had said, “My captain is Rahul Gandhi, who is also his (Amarinder’s) captain. Wherever I went, it was with his approval."