Infighting in the Punjab Congress has come to the fore with senior party leader Partap Singh Bajwa asking former state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu to join the party’s programmes instead of setting up his “own stage” while referring to the former cricketer’s December 17 rally in Bathinda.
Though the former cricketer did not react, five former MLAs, who are always seen with Mr Sidhu, on Wednesday retorted that neither the former Punjab Congress chief nor they were invited to the events of the state unit.
Later, nine party leaders including an MLA demanded that the party high command show Mr Sidhu the door as “his actions often work against the interests of the party as a whole”.
The factionalism in the Punjab Congress was witnessed days after Mr Sidhu held a rally in Bathinda. No notable senior leader from the state unit was part of the December 17 rally in which Mr Sidhu had targeted the AAP government for allegedly “failing” to deliver on promises made before the 2022 elections.
Reacting to Mr Sidhu’s rally, Mr Bajwa on Tuesday said, “I just request Sidhu Saab that he should act with some maturity.” “If this ‘Jamaat’ (Congress party) has given you the respect, digest it. Do not do such an act. When you were the PPCC president, you saw that you brought (Congress) from 78 (seats in 2017) to 18 (seats in 2022). Now what more he wants, ask him,” Mr Bajwa said while replying to a question from reporters regarding Mr Sidhu’s rally.
Mr Bajwa, who is the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly, asked Mr Sidhu to participate in the party’s events.
“I urge him to go with the party cadre, come to the stages of the party. After two days, we 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,” Mr Bajwa said.
The Qadian MLA said that “when we are in a party, we cannot have separate stages” and invited Mr Sidhu to participate in the December 21-22 protests against the state government.
Mr Sidhu himself refused to say anything but he posted on X the reaction of five former MLAs – “Rajinder Singh, Raminder Amla, Jagdev Singh Kamalu, Maheshinder Singh and Nazar Singh Manshahia – and a few other leaders to Mr Bajwa’s remarks.
The former MLAs said in their post that they and Mr Sidhu are not invited to Punjab Congress functions.
“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 said in the post.
They said they were working for the betterment of the party. “But why were we being discriminated against in the party because of our closeness with Sidhu,” they said.
They slammed Mr Bajwa and accused him of not organising any event for the last one month while they were constantly posing tough questions to the state government.
Meanwhile, Gurdaspur MLA Barindermeet Singh Pahra and former MLAs Kulbir Singh Zira, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Lakhvir Singh Lakha, Davinder Singh Ghubaya, Amit Vij, Punjab Youth Congress chief Mohit Mohindra and party leaders Navjot Singh Dahiya and Khushbaz Singh Jattana issued a joint statement demanding that Mr Sidhu be removed from the party.
“It is time that the Congress high command shows former PCC chief Navjot Singh 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,” they said.
“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 the statement.
“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,” they said.
“Navjot 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,” 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.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)