Punjab CM Channi, Navjot Sidhu go on ‘patch-up’ pilgrimage to Kedarnath amid tussle
Amid their growing unease with each other, Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu travelled to the Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand on Tuesday to put up a show of unity.
The two left for the shrine in a helicopter in the morning along with All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Chaudhary and Punjab Vidhan speaker Rana KP Singh. The visit was planned by the leadership, particularly Chaudhary, to try for a rapprochement between the two leaders whose tense relations got the party worried and show that all is well in the state Congress.
Both leaders have not been on the same page on senior appointments and allocation of portfolios. Sidhu has been adamant on removal of advocate general APS Deol who resigned from his post on Monday. However, there is still no clarity on whether his resignation has been accepted or not by the chief minister who declined to answer questions on the issue at press conference a day ago.
A senior party leader privy to developments said the shrine visit has given the message that Channi and Sidhu are ready to work together. “Their inability to resolve their differences and work together with just three months left for the elections was not sending the right message. My information is that they both vowed to work together. If this does not work, the party will have to find some other way,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The Punjab leaders first reached Dehradun and met former Punjab affairs in-charge Harish Rawat and videos of their meeting at the latter’s residence were also shared on social media. After meeting them, Rawat told reporters that all is well in Punjab and everything is running very smoothly. “Whatever challenges there are will be faced. I am confident this scenario will continue. And you will see Congress will win the elections. He (Chaudhary) will take the party towards victory in the state,” he said.
Though Channi and Sidhu did not respond to calls, both posted photos of their visit to the shrine. “Life is fragile, handle with prayer...At Kedarnath, the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva …. Har Har Mahadev !” Sidhu tweeted. The chief minister also tweeted, “Paid obeisance at the Kedarnath Shrine in Uttarakhand and prayed for the progress of Punjab and prosperity of its people”.
However, their “unity trip” drew digs from within the Congress. Former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar tweeted: “Political Pilgrims But each one trying to appease a different Deity (sic)”.
“United face of Punjab Congress...but why in uttarakhand why not in Punjab (sic),” party’s Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu posted on Twitter with a photo in which Sidhu, Chaudhary, Channi and Rana KP were seen holding their hands aloft.