Kharge steps in to broker peace in Punjab Congress

Kharge steps in to broker peace in Punjab Congress

Sidhu, who had a bitter fallout with Amarinder Singh after the Lok Sabha elections, walked out of the Punjab government

Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge. Credit: PTI File Photo

Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge-led panel on Monday launched efforts to defuse the factionalism in the Punjab unit that could derail the party’s prospects of retaining power in the border state.

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar met the three-member panel that includes AICC General Secretary in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat and senior leader J P Agarwal as the party began reconciliation efforts between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and key detractor Navjyot Singh Sidhu.

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The one-on-one meetings with party MLAs and senior leaders from the state would continue till Wednesday as the party weighed options to appoint a deputy chief minister to give representation to the ginger group in the Punjab unit.

Sidhu, who had a bitter fallout with Amarinder Singh after the Lok Sabha elections, walked out of the Punjab government and has been targeting the chief minister on the issue of investigation in the sacrilege case.

Sidhu, considered close to Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, is expected to meet the Kharge-led panel on Tuesday.

With the Akali Dal in disarray and BJP having a marginal presence, Congress’ prospects appear bright in Punjab which goes for elections early next year. However, the public fight between Singh and Sidhu could prove to be a dampener if reconciliation is not achieved soon.

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Sidhu had met the chief minister at least twice since November last year as Rawat doubled up efforts to bring about a rapprochement between the two leaders.

The last meeting between Sidhu and the chief minister took place on March 18, raising hopes of peace, but things took a turn for the worse soon after. In April, the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed the Punjab government probe into the incidents of alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 and the subsequent police firing on protesters in Kotkapura village.

Sidhu has been targeting the chief minister, accusing him of shielding arch-rival and Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Singh had rejected Sidhu's reported claims to the post of the President of the Punjab Congress contending that there were several leaders who had served the party for decades who could feel ignored if the post went to an outsider.

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