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Navjot Sidhu meets Gandhis as Punjab infighting worsens

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: A day after a dramatic escalation in the Congress’ Punjab crisis, party senior leader Navjot Sidhu met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is believed to be resistant to the Congress leadership’s plan to elevate his rival Navjot Sidhu as state Congress chief, replacing Sunil Jakhar.

On Thursday, tensions peaked after reports started circulating of Mr Sidhu’s promotion and a shake-up in the Punjab cabinet.

By 9 pm, both Amarinder Singh and Mr Sidhu had rounded up MLAs and ministers on their side and gone into separate meetings.

Mr Sidhu held a meeting with six MLAs, including three cabinet ministers — Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Charanjit Singh Channi and Tript Rajinder Bajwa – who have openly rebelled against Mr Singh.

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On the other hand, the Chief Minister went into a huddle with party MLAs and MPs supporting him at his private farmhouse in Mohali.

Sources said the rebel ministers feared sacking in the anticipated cabinet changes. Along with rebel MLAs, they have threatened mass resignations.

According to the compromise plan, Mr Sidhu is to take over as Punjab Congress chief with two working presidents, “one from the Dalit community and the other a Hindu face”, sources say.

The plan followed a series of meetings between the Gandhis, Mr Sidhu and Mr Singh. The Chief Minister had met Sonia Gandhi last week, after which he said he would accept “whatever decision is taken by the Congress high command”.

The feud between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu, festering since the Congress won the Punjab election in 2017, has endangered the party’s re-election bid next year.

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Mr Sidhu, who quit the BJP and joined the Congress just before the 2017 election, has been fighting for a bigger slice of power but has so far been stymied by the Chief Minister.

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