With fears of the party high command veering towards a more ‘Sidhu-centric’ solution to the crisis plaguing the Punjab Congress, a section of leaders close to the Chief Minister is preparing a strategy to counter any move that would leave Capt Amarinder ‘powerless’ and ‘inconsequential’.
Though the three-member AICC panel has assured that a resolution will be thrashed out soon by accommodating ‘wishes’ of all the ‘factions’ but sources said that the party could be in more turbulence up ahead. Sources pointed out that the developments in the last one week had made Capt Amarinder Singh lobby wary about the so-called ‘truce bid’.
Leaders close to him said that Sidhu was being given undue ‘weightage’ while the Gandhis were trying to resolve the imbroglio in the party.
With reports suggesting that the former cabinet minister may either be made Punjab Congress chief or given the responsibility of the campaign committee for the forthcoming Assembly elections, the CM camp was feeling ‘slighted’ and ignored. With numbers still stacked on his side, the Chief Minister had started working on plans to solidify his position within the party. Party sources said that the recent meeting with Hindu leaders within the party was being seen as one such move.
Reliable sources close to the CM said that he was trying to garner the support of other community leaders within the party who have of late started feeling sidelined due to the ongoing battle of supremacy between Sidhu and the Captain.
At the meeting with prominent Hindu leaders chaired by the CM, there was unanimity on resisting the elevation of Sidhu to the post of the PCC chief. “You cannot have both the CM face and the PCC chief from one community, it will drive away other communities from the party,” commented a senior party leader. The leaders have also demanded fielding Hindu faces in urban Assembly segments such as Bathinda (Urban), Gurdaspur and Moga, where Jat faces had been fielded in the 2017 Assembly elections. Also, feeling left out are the Dalit leaders within the party who have been demanding either a Deputy Chief Minister or a PCC chief from amongst them.
Sources said that the CM off late has been trying to reach out to these communities. “There is a fear within the party that the Majha brigade, comprising Cabinet ministers Tript Rajinder Bajwa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Sukhjinder Randhawa along with some MLAs, are trying to collude with dissidents and garner maximum power share much to the discomfiture of other communities,’’ commented a leader.
Former Batala MLA Ashwani Sekhri, who was recently in the news for being in talks with the SAD, has vociferously raised his voice against the Majha brigade accusing them of pushing Hindu leaders to oblivion.
It is these ‘ignored’ community leaders who can now play a crucial role in Captain’s ‘power play’ against Sindhu. “If the crisis escalates, it will eventually boil down to numbers. The more Captain gets on board the more he can bargain from high command if Sidhu tries to assumes criticality in the party affairs,’’ commented a leader.