SOMETIME today, when All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary KC Venugopal and AICC in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat meet Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, they are likely to tell Sidhu to tone down his rhetoric against the party’s government in Punjab.
The high command is of the view that, despite some positives and change in perception for the party government in the state, Sidhu’s not-to-veiled attacks on the government have been embarrassing the party. These, the high command feels, could cost the party dearly in the elections.
While the party is also yet to take a final call on whether to accept or reject his resignation from his post, which he made public on Twitter, many in the party feel he should be allowed to go his own way so that the state government functions properly without having to always be worried about the possible, often negative, reaction of the party chief to its decisions.
“He has become a noose around the party’s neck. He is hurting us. We don’t know what Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka ji (Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra) see in him,” rued a senior Punjab Congress leader.
Most in the Congress had expected that with the ouster of Capt Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister last month, following intense pressure mounted by a majority of the MLAs led by Sidhu, the motormouth politician would be content and begin the task of revitalising the party cadre ahead of next year’s Assembly election.
What nobody had bargained for was that after losing out on the top post in the state, a bitter Sidhu would continue his attack on his own party’s government, now led by a Dalit Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, over issues like non-appointment of an Advocate General and DGP of Sidhu’s choice.
Yesterday, a day before his meeting with Venugopal and Rawat, Sidhu again took potshots at the Punjab government, saying that while the Punjab and Haryana High Court would open the “STF report on multi-crore Drug racket linked to (a possible reference Shiromani Akali Dal leader and brother-in-law of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal) Majithia” today “after more than 3.5 yrs of wait” and the court would “name the main culprits today”.
“A Priority among High Command’s 18 Point Agenda yet Mothers of Punjab are still awaiting action by the State,” his tweet further said.
The High Court bench, however, while hearing the case, chose not to open the supposed damning reports. The matter will be heard again today.
The high command, sources said, is also equally wary of the possibility of Capt Amarinder Singh, who has publicly declared his intent to oppose Sidhu, training his guns at the Channi government.
“Capt Amarinder Singh, who is now clearly the B-Team of the BJP and the Narendra Modi government, is hell-bent on hurting the party’s chances in the next Assembly elections. While, so far, his attacks have been limited to Twitter, as elections approach, he will try and move out. We will have to wait to see what impact he has as people haven’t forgiven him for ignoring them during the over four years he was at the helm. But the PCC chief’s attacks will only strengthen Capt’s hands,” said a senior Congress office bearer.
Sources say, the high command is firm in its view that but for issues raised by Sidhu, which culminated in Capt’s ouster, the party was on the fast path to self-destruction, one reason they continue to be tolerant of his continued and frequent outbursts.
“But when he meets the two leaders (Venugopal and Rawat), they will certainly do some plainspeak with him. After all, there is a limit to how long somebody’s juvenile behaviour, howsoever good he or she may be, can be tolerated,” said an AICC functionary.