Chandigarh: Stung by the Congress’s ultimatum in a controversy over his advisers, Navjot Sidhu has warned that it will be “disastrous” for the party if he is not given freedom in decision-making.
“I have always worked towards changing lives; even today I’m working towards developing a Punjab model. I have told the high command that if I am able to live up to the expectations and hope of people surrounding the model, I assure you that I’ll not let the Congress down and it will prosper for the next 20 years. But if you won’t let me take decisions, eint naal eint bi kharkaonga (it will be disastrous for the party). There’s no point in becoming a showpiece,” said Navjot Sidhu, who was recently appointed the party’s Punjab chief in a tense compromise with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Asked to comment on Mr Sidhu’s pronouncement at an event in Amritsar yesterday, Congress’s Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat reacted cautiously. “I can’t question him on the basis of media speculation… I will see the context of the statement. He is party chief, who other than him can take decisions,” he said.
Mr Rawat met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi this afternoon, reportedly to brief her on the Punjab mess. He has asked the party to relieve him of the Punjab role, citing the Uttarakhand election next year.
Mr Sidhu’s threat was linked directly to Mr Rawat’s statement pressing him to sack his advisers for their controversial statements on Pakistan and Kashmir.
“These advisers were not appointed by the party. We have asked Sidhu to dismiss them. If Sidhu does not do that, I will. We do not want people who embarrass the party,” Mr Rawat told media on Wednesday.
One of the advisers, Malvinder Singh Mali, quit today.
The row over Mr Sidhu’s advisers has erupted just weeks after the Congress brokered a delicate truce between him and Amarinder Singh, to try and end a feud that has endangered the party’s prospects in the Punjab election next year.
The hostilities resurfaced on Sunday when the Chief Minister publicly told off Mr Sidhu’s advisers over comments that he said were “potentially dangerous” to the peace and stability of Punjab and the country and “totally misplaced and antagonistic” to the stated position of India and the Congress on Pakistan and Kashmir.
Amarinder Singh also urged Mr Sidhu to rein in his advisers before they ended up doing more damage to India’s interests.