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In Punjab Chief Minister’s truce with Navjot Singh Sidhu, top lawyer is out

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi has accepted APS Deol’s resignation as Advocate-General, in a move that meets another of sulking Congress leader Navjot Sidhu’s demands ahead of next year’s election.

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“The Punjab cabinet has accepted the resignation of Advocate-General APS Deol,” Mr Channi told reporters this evening, with Mr Sidhu by his side.

The vacancy will be filled by tomorrow, he said.

This comes just days after the Chief Minister seemed to back Mr Deol.

Chief Minister Channi also said a list of replacements for the post of Punjab Director-General of Police – currently held by Iqbal Singh Sahota – had been forwarded to the centre.

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Mr Sidhu wanted Mr Deol and Mr Sahota – both appointed by Chief Minister Channi – to be sacked over the 2015 sacrilege and police firing case.

APS Deol had represented two accused cops and Iqbal Sahota was the head of one of the SITs formed by the then Akali Dal government, which Mr Sidhu has blamed for failing to ensure justice.

Mr Sidhu – whose feud with Amarinder Singh pushed him into quitting as Chief Minister and from the Congress – had made his feelings very clear, going as far as to quit as Punjab Congress chief.

His resignation came as a shock to the Congress, particularly since the Gandhis had supported him in his bitter spat with Mr Singh, leading the still-influential ex Chief Minister to quit and set up his own party – something that will certainly worry the party ahead of the election.

Last week Mr Sidhu said he would return only if APS Deol were sacked.

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Mr Deol had been made the Punjab government’s top lawyer by Chief Minister Channi after his predecessor, Atul Nanda, quit following Amarinder Singh’s resignation.

Sources had earlier told NDTV Mr Channi initially refused Mr Deol’s offer of resignation – a move seen as a signal that it was the Chief Minister, and not the MLA, in charge.

Today’s U-turn, however, seems to reinforce Mr Sidhu’s ability to get his way when it comes to party decisions, and underlines the fact that the power balance between the Chief Minister and the party’s state boss will likely play a crucial role in the Congress’ hopes for re-election.

Also last week, Mr Deol slammed Mr Sidhu for “repeated utterances (that) seek to derail the earnest efforts of the state to ensure justice in the ‘drugs matter’ and the ‘sacrilege cases'”.

He also accused Mr Sidhu – whose attacks on his own government augur ill ahead of next year’s election – of “spreading misinformation to gain a political advantage over colleagues”.

“There is a concerted attempt by vested interests to malign the functioning of the Congress party in view of the coming elections in Punjab for their selfish political gain, by politicizing the constitutional office of the Advocate General of Punjab,” Mr Deol wrote.

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