Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has told the Congress committee in Delhi last week that Navjot Singh Sidhu cannot be made the Deputy Chief Minister or the state party chief and assured action in the sacrilege-police firing cases would be taken well before the Punjab polls.
Sources said Singh, who is gearing up to take the party into elections under his leadership and said elevation of Sidhu as Deputy CM or PCC Chief could upset leadership equations in the state unit.
“The CM has said that Sidhu can rejoin the Cabinet and a post is vacant for him. He has made it clear that Sidhu cannot be made the PCC chief as there are many other senior leaders in the party unit who are eligible for that post. Also, both positions – the CM and the PCC Chief – cannot go to Jat Sikhs,” a source aware of the deliberations told News18.
Singh in fact pointed to the committee that Sidhu has been on sort of a rebellious path lately by making statements against his government.
The fact is not lost upon the High Command that it is Captain Amarinder Singh who has always won elections for the Congress in Punjab and put up a great performance in the last Lok Sabha elections, sources added.
Other Congress leaders, who appeared before the committee, also did not seem to back Sidhu for either of the two top posts (deputy CM or PCC chief) but at least two of them told News18 that the High Command seems inclined to retain Sidhu in a respectable position, probably with a prominent role in the campaign, and did not want him to defect to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Another source said that the CM had in fact asked the committee to rein in leaders like Sidhu and Partap Singh Bajwa who were acting like opposition parties in Punjab while SAD, AAP and BJP have fallen by the sidelines.
On the sensitive issue of delay in action in the sacrilege-police firing cases of 2015, the CM has assured the committee that a new SIT is on the job and action could follow in a couple of a months, well before the Punjab elections scheduled in eight months.
Besides, he has informed the committee that his government is also considering a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision of quashing the earlier SIT’s probe into the incidents.
Most Congress leaders who appeared before the committee said the delay in action in the case was a major concern and could cost the party in the upcoming elections as the same was a big pre-poll promise in the 2017 Punjab elections. A source said much of the probe was complete before the HC intervened to quash it as the Badal family questioned the pre-conceived notion of the probe given a police officer of the earlier SIT had been very vocal.