Suspense over Sidhu’s presence at Rahul’s tractor march on Sunday
As political temperature hots up on the issue of new farm laws, Congress leader and former party president Rahul Gandhi will launch a three-day protest march with 3,000 tractors from Moga on Sunday.
There is no clarity, however, on the participation of party’s Amritsar East MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu has been among the Congress’ star election campaigners in the past, but is the bête noire of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. Sidhu has not shared stage with Amarinder for over a year.
Sidhu’s strained relationship with Amarinder became public after the former talked of a ‘friendly match’ at a Lok Sabha election rally in Bathinda on May 17, 2019, referring to alleged ‘inaction’ by the Amarinder-led government against the culprits of sacrilege incidents. Sidhu left the state cabinet in June last year after his portfolio was changed from local bodies to power.
Cooperation and jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who is overseeing Rahul’s visit, told HT on Saturday that a huge gathering was expected at the grain market in Badhni Kalan in Moga about 11am on Sunday.
With AICC general secretary Harish Rawat meeting Sidhu in Amritsar on Thursday, it was believed that the cricketer-turned-politician will be seen at Rahul’s political programme.
“All-India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretaries KC Venugopalan, Randeep Surjewala, newly-appointed Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will attend the tractor rally. The CM and state party president Sunil Jakhar will be there. There is no official word on Sidhu reaching Moga tomorrow,” said Randhawa.
It will be the first political event since March 22, when lockdown was imposed for the first time after the covid-19 outbreak, to have official sanction for the gathering of a large number of people.
Congress’ protest has political significance, as Punjab has been reeling under organised protests by all 31 farmers’ associations and unions of farm labourers against the BJP and its former ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), on the new farm laws.
SAD, the traditional political foe of the Congress, has already registered its political presence by organising a statewide rally on October 1.