Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has quit from his post amid reports of a rift with new chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi over his cabinet.
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) September 28, 2021
Trouble started brewing on Sunday as a few hours before the new ministers were to take oath, some MLAs wrote to Sidhu, saying the “tainted” Rana Gurjeet Singh should not be made minister since he faced accusations of corruption in sand mining. Gurjeet Singh, in fact, was removed from the cabinet by then chief minister Amarinder Singh over the corruption allegations.
Sidhu, however, failed to stop Gurjeet Singh’s elevation as minister again. He is also believed to be upset with some other ministerial appointments made by Channi, like that of Aruna Chaudhary who is the CM’s relative and faces anti-incumbency in her constituency Dinanagar. Sidhu had instead been pitching for a berth to Punjab Congress Committee Scheduled Caste (SC) department head Raj Kunar Chhabewal.
The cabinet composition seems to also have upset caste dynamics, with no adequate representation given to Mazhabi Sikhs who make up 30% of SCs. The current assembly has nine MLAs from the community. Sources say Channi was not receptive to the idea of accommodating Mazhabi Sikhs as he was pitching for his own community.
Those close to the CM dismiss the speculation as unfair allegations. They say every name for ministership had the sanction of both party leader Rahul Gandhi and the Punjab Congress Committee, which Sidhu heads.
Sidhu’s resignation has now triggered speculation about his next course of action. There are several questions unanswered: Will he join AAP? Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, who will be on a 2-day visit to Punjab from Wednesday, is yet to announce the CM face in the state, which is due for polls in 2022. Is Congress the ultimate loser in these internal party fights? Mostly importantly, Sidhu’s resignation has now put a big question mark on the continuation of the new Punjab cabinet. Will the state see yet another expansion?
The development also comes on a day when former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is in Delhi amid buzz that he will meet Home Minister Amit Shah and jump ship to the BJP. Reacting to Sidhu’s quitting, Amarinder tweeted he is not fit for Punjab. “I told you so…he is not a stable man and not fit for the border state of Punjab,” he wrote.