The Congress is facing the heat in Punjab, and the spillover effect is being felt in Delhi. Senior leaders of the party are publicly voicing differences with the leadership, prompting protests by others in the same party.
Navjot Singh Sidhu has already shown his defiance, resigning as the president of the party’s state unit. Further aggravating the troubles for the Congress, former chief minister Amarinder Singh met Union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi, fuelling speculation about a change in camp, though he has officially denied any such move.
Here are the latest developments on the political crisis in Punjab:
• Taking a swipe at the Congress over Punjab turmoil, Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra on Wednesday said the party has become a vehicle without a driver. Speaking to news agency ANI, the Union minister slammed Sidhu calling him “unstable” and “extremely ambitious”.
• Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is coming to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, attacked Rahul Gandhi, alleging he is sinking the Congress party. “Amarinder was removed because of Sidhu, now Sidhu has run away as well. We don’t have to do anything as long as Rahul Gandhi is there,” said Chouhan.
• Meanwhile, Punjab transport minister Amrinder Singh Raja Warring on Wednesday ensured that all the issues within the party will be resolved soon. Hinting that the party intends to retain Sidhu as the state Congress chief, the minister said, “We are like a family. If Sidhu Ji has said something in anger, then it does not matter. He is our party president and his resignation has not been accepted yet.”
• Reacting to the developments in Punjab, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal demanded an immediate meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body the working committee and wondered who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president.
• Sibal, a member of the ‘Group of 23’ which last year had written to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, said at a press conference that the grouping is “not a Jee Huzur 23” and will continue to put forth the views and will continue to repeat the demands.
• He came under attacks from several quarters with some Congress workers also protesting outside his house in New Delhi. Carrying ‘Get Well Soon Kapil Sibal’ placards, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) workers said they were “hurt” by his remarks.
• Sensing an opportunity ahead of assembly elections in the state, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said that only his party can give a good and honest government to the state. Kejriwal is on a two-day visit to Punjab.
• The Congress hit out at Amit Shah for meeting Amarinder Singh, with party leader Randeep Surjewala saying the home minister’s residence has become the “new centre of anti-Dalit politics”. Surjewala further said that the arrogance of those sitting in power has been hurt ever since a Dalit (Charanjit Singh Channi) has been made the chief minister of Punjab.
• Dissension in the Congress’ Punjab unit erupted in May but the leadership hoped the appointment of Sidhu as party unit chief and the removal of his arch-rival Singh as chief minister would tamp down tensions.
• But Sidhu’s resignation barely 72 days after being appointed took the party by surprise, and embarrassed Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who together orchestrated Sidhu’s appointment and Singh’s exit as part of an effort to end factionalism and improve the party’s chances in next year’s state elections.