Punjab Congress leader Navjot Sidhu, whose longstanding feud with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has contributed hugely to the crisis in the party’s state unit, met Rahul Gandhi at his home in Delhi today. The meeting took place just a day after the former Congress chief declared that he had no meeting scheduled with the cricketer-turned-politician.
Earlier today, Sidhu had met Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for a four-hour discussion. While the details of their talks are not known, Mr Sidhu had tweeted their picture. “Had a long meeting with @priyankagandhi Ji,” read the accompanying post. Ms Gandhi-Vadra was also present during Mr Sidhu’s meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
The 57-year-old — who is known to be backed by Rahul Gandhi and has a following both in the state and the party — had been pushing for a meeting with the Gandhis to press his demands.
Yesterday, Rahul Gandhi had said he has no meeting scheduled with Mr Sidhu after the Punjab leader’s team claimed that he was going to Delhi on Tuesday to meet the Gandhis.
The Congress has made it clear that it would continue to back Amarinder Singh and will contest the next year’s state elections under his leadership. But the Gandhis did not meet the Chief Minister when he was in Delhi last week — an omission many have interpreted as a snub.
It is unclear whether today’s round of meetings will pacify the Punjab leader, who has not been shy about airing his long list of grievances against Amarinder Singh.
The long meeting with Priyanka Gandhi, though, had raised hopes of a breakthrough. Two years ago, Gandhi-Vadra had managed to broker peace during a similar tumult in Rajasthan, when Sachin Pilot was at loggerheads with his boss, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and a split appeared imminent.
In May, there were reports that Sidhu — who joined the Congress from BJP ahead of the 2017 elections — is about to change camp again.
The claim finally came from Amarinder Singh, going on record with a local television channel saying Sidhu is in talks with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and can switch sides any moment.
Sidhu, furious, demanded that the Chief Minister prove his claims.
“Prove one meeting that I have had with another party’s leader?! I have never asked anyone for any post till date. All I seek is Punjab’s prosperity!! Was invited & offered cabinet berths many times but I did not accept. Now, our esteemed high command has intervened, will wait,” he tweeted.
Sidhu, who had come to the Congress hoping to play a key role in the government, had been thwarted by Mr Singh’s refusal to accept him as his deputy. The 57-year-old has now made it clear that he no longer would be a showpiece for the party.
The Captain has also resisted the suggestions by the three-member panel — constituted by Sonia Gandhi to resolve the Punjab Congress infighting. The panel has suggested that before the state polls next year, Mr Sidhu be given a role in the party structure. The Chief Minister should also take corrective measures to fulfill the Congress manifesto, especially in reducing power bills, dealing with sand and transport mafia.
Sidhu’s frequent criticisms of Mr Singh made headlines — the most recent flashpoint was Mr Singh’s move to give government jobs to the sons of two Congress MLAs on “compassionate” grounds. Mr Sidhu had accused him of giving jobs to elitist people”.
He has also publicly pointed out the party’s failure to meet the promises made to the people ahead of the 2017 elections – the biggest of them being action in the desecration of the Sikh religious text Guru Granth Sahib and police firing during peaceful protests.
With inputs from NDTV