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Split wide open in Punjab Congress as Bajwa asks Sidhu not to set up his ‘own akhara’

A group of Punjab Congress leaders, including an MLA, Wednesday demanded that the party high command show Navjot Singh Sidhu the door as ‘his actions often work against the interests of the party”, hours after five former legislators, who are always seen with the cricketer-turned-politician, claimed that neither the former state party chief nor they were invited to any events of the state unit.

The simmering factionalism in the Punjab Congress came to fore after senior party leader Partap Singh Bajwa asked Sidhu to join the party’s programmes instead of setting up his “own stage” while referring to latter’s December 17 rally in Bathinda. None of the senior leaders from the party’s state unit attended the rally in which Sidhu went hammer and tongs against the AAP government for allegedly “failing” to deliver on poll promises.

“I would only request Sidhu Saab to act with some maturity. Je tuhanu es jamaat ne ijjat maan de hi ditta e te onu digest vi karo (The party has given you respect, and you should accept it). Don’t act like this. You were PPCC president and saw Congress come down from 78 (seats in 2017) to 18 (seats in 2022)”. Now what more he wants,” said Bajwa.

Bajwa also extended an invitation go Sidhu to participate in the December 21-22 protests against the state government. “I urge him to go come to the stage of the party. After two days, we have planned protests in Jagraon and Phagwara. Come to that stage and speak what you want to speak. Setting up ‘apna nawan akhara’ (own stage) is not a good thing. No Punjab Congress man considers it good,” said Bajwa, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly.

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Without making any comments on Bajwa’s rbemarks, Sidhu posted on X the reaction of a group of his loyalists including Rajinder Singh, Raminder Amla, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, Maheshinder Singh and Nazar Singh Manshahia, all former MLAs.

Festive offer

“Respected Bajwa Saab, we, the Congress office bearers and workers, want to say that neither we nor Navjot Sidhu are invited to Punjab Congress events. And if we held a rally on the invitation of party workers for the betterment of Congress and when there was a gathering of over eight thousand people, why are we being called bad instead of being encouraged,” they asked in the post.

“Why are we being discriminated against in the party because of our closeness with Sidhu,” they said, adding that they love and respect the Congress “as much as you do”. They also accused party’s state leadership of not organising any event for the last one month while they were constantly posing tough questions to the state government. “The fact of the matter is that workers are not getting due respect and representation and that is why Sidhu came in support of the workers,” they added.

Earlier, Sidhu had also shared on X a post by his loyalist Malvinder Singh Mali, who was appointed as as advisor when he was PPCC chief.

Targeting Bajwa, Mali said, “the onus of Congress getting reduced from 78 to 18 seats lies on you”. Referring to Charanjit Singh Channi being announced as the CM face for the 2022 elections, Mali said, “You played Dalit card by dismissing Sidhu’s agenda”.

Hours later, the Punjab Congress released a joint statement by several party leaders demanding that Sidhu be thrown out from the party.

The statement, titled ‘bomb in basement — Sidhu waiting to implode’, was signed by Gurdaspur MLA Barindermeet Singh Pahra and former MLAs Kulbir Singh Zira, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Lakhvir Singh Lakha, Davinder Singh Ghubaya, Amit Vij, state Youth Congress chief Mohit Mohindra and party leaders Navjot Singh Dahiya and Khushbaz Singh Jattana.

“It is time that the Congress high command shows Sidhu the door. Even though we respect him as the former chief 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 the collective efforts of the Congress. This was evident as under his leadership, Congress in Punjab went from winning 78 seats in the 2017 elections to winning mere 18 seats during the 2022 elections,” according to joint statement.

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“As the president of Punjab Congress, it was Sidhu’s duty to ensure that the party held a strong position in the 2022 elections, a duty in which he failed miserably. Sidhu has had a history of being opposite to the collective stand of the Congress. The way he acts clearly shows he is not a team player, which always diminishes the efforts of the party and its workers,” read the statement read.

“It is essential to remember that Sidhu was sitting right beside the senior party leadership when Charanjit Singh Channi was announced as the CM face for the 2022 elections. But still, instead of standing with the party, he chose his own glorification agenda which led him to do things which hurt the party’s prospects massively,” they said.

The further said that Sidhu needs to stop “self glorification” as he “clearly failed as a team captain and a team player”.

Talking to the Indian Express, Zira said, “I think party will get rid of him (Sidhu) soon”.

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

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