Punjab Cong rumblings: 3-member panel set up by Sonia to meet today
Rajya Sabha member Mallikarjun Khargeled committee has former Delhi Congress president Jai Prakash Agarwal and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat as members
Chandigarh A three-member committee set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi under senior party leader and Rajya Sabha member Mallikarjun Kharge to resolve the infighting in the Punjab Congress will have its first meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.
The committee, which has former Delhi Congress president Jai Prakash Agarwal and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat as members, plans to find a solution to the open sparring between chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and the dissenting group, including former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Charanjit Singh Channi, through dialogue. Kharge, who became the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha in February this year, is among the Gandhi family loyalists.
The panel has also been asked to look at the party’s strengths and shortcomings and draw the strategy for strengthening the party for the state assembly polls due early next year after listening to the chief minister’s camp and the dissenters, according to sources. Rawat, who had tried hard for a rapprochement between Amarinder and Sidhu after becoming in-charge of Punjab eight months ago, spoke to the chief minister on Friday and sought his opinion on the modalities to be followed.
“We will also talk to (Punjab Congress president) Sunil Jakhar, ministers, MPs and MLAs among others and seek their views for early resolution of these issues and draw the strategy for the Congress victory,” said Rawat, a former chief minister of Uttarakhand. The committee does not have any immediate plans to visit the state due to the coronavirus pandemic and is likely to meet the party leaders in the national capital.
The committee has been constituted by the Congress leadership due to the internecine infighting among senior party leaders, particularly Amarinder and Sidhu, who are hitting out at each other over delay in giving justice in sacrilege cases ever since the Punjab and Haryana high court quashed the special investigation report (SIT) report in the 2015 Kotkapura police firing case. The politically sensitive issue has seen attempts by 9-10 ministers, MPs and MLAs to band together and take on the chief minister. Sidhu blamed Amarinder for the legal setback and failure to deliver on some key poll promises whereas the CM accused him of fuelling dissent, suggesting that he (former minister) may jump the ship. Also, seven ministers have demanded the cricketer-turned-politician’s suspension from the party. While Sidhu is said to be counting on former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the two-time CM, who has led the party to a string of electoral successes in the state since the 2017 election win, seems confident that the Congress high command will listen to him on this issue.