Punjab CM Channi reminds defiant Sidhu party is supreme

Sidhu remains defiant, CM Channi reminds him party is supreme

Channi reached out to the cricketer-turned-politician but with a subtle warning that 'party is supreme'

Navjot Singh Sidhu and newly-inducted CM Channi. Credit: PTI File Photo

As Navjot Singh Sidhu remained defiant, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday reached out to the cricketer-turned-politician but with a subtle warning that the "party is supreme" while the central leadership made it known that it could bring in a fresh face at the helm at the earliest if there is no compromise.

Hectic parleys were held to resolve the crisis as Sidhu, who had managed to get his rival Amarinder Singh out of Chief Minister's post on September 18, pushed the Congress into turmoil and the Gandhi siblings who backed him to a corner by resigning from the post of Punjab Congress president, just 71 days after his appointment.

The Congress central leadership was keen for an early resolution but was not willing to give too much into Sidhu's demands and gave ample hints to fall in line by making it clear that it has a back-up plan to install a new party chief in the state while hinting at possible candidates like Kuljeet Singh Nagra and Ravneet Bittu, both considered close to Rahul.

Channi, who was entrusted to break the stalemate by the leadership, spoke to Sidhu, who was upset over a variety of issues, including the choice of some ministers and appointments to key administrative posts by the new Chief Minister.

Also Read | Miffed Sidhu raises questions over DGP, AG appointments

In a day that saw fast-paced developments, Sidhu fired the first shot by releasing a video on Twitter in which he claimed that his fight was "issue-based" and that he will "keep fighting for truth till my last breath" as he cannot compromise with "my ethics and my moral authority".

The Chief Minister indicated that there is "no ego tussle", as he reached out to Sidhu but made it clear to the "party is supreme".

"Whoever is party president, is head of the family. I had called him (Sidhu) and told him that the party is supreme...I have spoken to him on phone and told him let's sit, talk it out and resolve the issue," Channi told reporters in Chandigarh after a Cabinet meeting.

Also Read | Day after resignation, Navjot Singh Sidhu says, 'will keep fighting for truth till my last breath'

Unfazed by the tension within the party following Sidhu's resignation, Channi appeared to show that he meant business by holding a meeting of his Cabinet in which several decisions were taken, including waiver of electricity bills for consumers using up to 2 KW of power that could cost Rs 1,200 crore to the exchequer but benefit 53 lakh families.

While top Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, who were instrumental in Sidhu's appointment on July 18, did not publicly comment on the developments, the Congress High Command sent AICC General Secretary and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat to the state.

Channi is also said to have deputed two leaders, including Pargat Singh who is close to Sidhu, to hold talks. Pargat Singh said issues would be resolved soon.

Sidhu is said to be miffed at Channi, who has the backing of the party High Command, for not acceding to his demands on portfolio distribution. Also with Channi's elevation, he feels that he may not stand a chance for the Chief Minister's post as the Congress may not be in no mood to give an impression that Punjab's first Dalit Chief Minister is just a stop gap arrangement who is keeping the seat warm for Sidhu.

The Congress top leadership has given Channi a free hand while indicating to Sidhu to keep a low profile, which the maverick politician is unlikely to heed.

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