Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned as Punjab Congress president on Tuesday, barely three months after he was elevated to the post despite then chief minister Amarinder Singh’s opposition. The move stems from the inclusion of controversial MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh in the new Charanjit Singh Channi cabinet and the appointment of APS Deol as the Advocate-General of Punjab.
Gurjeet Singh has been accused of corruption in sand mining and was earlier dropped from the Amarinder Singh cabinet as well.
“The new Chief Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, in his first press conference said no sand mafia should approach him for a meeting. And then the party has gone ahead and made Rana Gurjeet Singh a cabinet minister who had to leave his chair in 2018 due to allegations involving sand mining mafia. This is in clear violation of what Sidhu has fought for since 2017 and what he stands for,” a recently sworn-in minister who is close to Sidhu told News18 on condition of anonymity.
Sidhu was also upset over the appointment of APS Deol as the state’s new Advocate-General. Deol had earlier been the counsel for former state DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in the various sacrilege cases and had secured his release from jail in a vigilance case. The Sidhu camp feels that with Deol being made A-G, impending action against the Badals and Sumedh Singh Saini in the 2015 sacrilege-police firing cases has been severely compromised.
The Congress has defended both the appointments, but the Sidhu camp has reportedly made it clear that these appointments need to be reversed for any talk of rapprochement. “How will we face the electorate with such problematic appointments? This flies in the face of what the ‘New Congress’ under CM Channi and Navjot Sidhu had planned to implement in the next four months,” another close aide of Sidhu who also became a minister two days ago told News18.
Sidhu has also been upset over one of his close aides and party’s working president, Kuljit Singh Nagra, being dropped as minister at the last moment.
News18 had earlier reported that Sidhu had pitched himself as CM after Captain Amarinder Singh was removed from the post, but the party high command chose Channi for the job. Sidhu had managed to thwart Sukhjinder Randhawa’s elevation as CM but had to agree to Channi as CM. Sidhu is now said to be hoping to be the party’s CM face in 2022 Assembly elections.
A party source said Sidhu has also been upset over the high command not defending him strongly after Captain Amarinder Singh called him “anti-national” over his presence at Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s swearing-in. Congress leaders had termed it an emotional outburst from Captain.