Sidhu ups the ante; factionalism to the fore again in Punjab Congress

The ex-cricketer-turned politician has been at odds with the state leadership for a long time.
Last Updated 26 December 2023, 09:02 IST

Navjot Singh Sidhu has once again become the centre of unrest in Punjab Congress with the cricketer-turned-politician and state leadership engaged in a war of attrition in the midst of the party’s efforts to regain the ground lost to AAP during the 2022 Assembly elections.

The trouble also comes at a time the Punjab Congress is at a war with the central leadership to block any attempts to enter into an alliance with the AAP in Punjab for the Lok Sabha elections.

Leaders like state president Amarinder Singh Warring and Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa have taken exception to Sidhu’s solitary efforts ignoring party infrastructure and social media posts targeting other leaders while the cricketer has shot back saying he is only working towards improving the party's standing in the state.

Sidhu and other leaders attended a meeting on Tuesday evening called by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to discuss Lok Sabha poll preparations. Sources said some leaders complained about Sidhu while Rahul Gandhi said indiscipline will not be tolerated.

As the meeting progressed, he posted one of his recent addresses on ‘X’ and sounded uncompromising in his fight against his own colleagues, “The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner…Will fight for the Congress and Punjab without compromising moral values !”

Sidhu, a former Punjab Congress president, and Punjab Congress leaders are at odds for long, leading first to the ousting of Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister. He was also upset with the central leadership for choosing Charanjit Singh Channi as Chief Minister ahead of the 2022 polls.

After the poll debacle, he resigned as party chief and Warring was appointed in his place. Since then, Sidhu was at odds with the state leadership.

A group of MLAs and former legislators have issued a joint statement titled ‘Bomb in Basement – Sidhu Waiting to Implode’ asking leadership to “show the door” to Sidhu for “anti-party activities” while his loyalists have shot back saying that they were not invited to party programmes and the former cricketer should not be held responsible for party’s Assembly debacle.

“It is time that the Congress High Command shows Sidhu the door. Even though we respect him as the former president of the Punjab Congress, his actions often work against the interests of the party as a whole. His indiscipline in dealing with political matters usually goes against Congress’ collective efforts,” Sidhu’s detractors said in the joint statement.

While Warring has asked Sidhu not to air differences in social media and warned that action will follow against those violating central leadership’s directives, Bajwa has “requested” him to desist from holding own political programmes. Bajwa asked him to participate in party programmes.

The latest round of acrimony started with Sidhu organising a rally in Bathinda on December 17, which no state leaders attended. While Sidhu asks why it is anti-party activity when he participated in a rally of 8,000 Congress supporters, Punjab party leaders said the former state party chief was attempting to divide the party.

Sidhu maintains that he has only raised issues related to Punjab and has not targeted any party leader.

Responding to Bajwa putting the blame for Congress being reduced to 18 from 78 at the doors of Sidhu and asking him to “act with some maturity”, the latter’s confidante Malvinder Singh Mali put the blame on Bajwa, saying they played the “Dalit card by dismissing” Sidhu’s agenda to “end the loot”.

(Published 26 December 2023, 09:02 IST)

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