NEW DELHI :
Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu met Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in the national capital on Monday amid a war of words between chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the ex-cricketer.
A series of developments over the last fortnight have peaked into a tussle in the party in Punjab. Sidhu was divested of key portfolios in a cabinet reshuffle last week—a day after he skipped a cabinet meeting and instead addressed the media.
“Met the congress president, handed him my letter, appraised him of the situation!" Sidhu wrote on Twitter along with a group photo with Gandhi, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party treasurer Ahmed Patel. Sidhu did not reveal what the letter said.
According to a senior party leader, Patel has been entrusted with the responsibility of mediating between the chief minister and Sidhu and finding a solution to the growing trouble. Senior party leaders expect Sidhu’s ‘messaging’ on meeting Gandhi to lead to a response from Singh, also known as Captain.
“Purely, the grounds on which Captain is blaming Sidhu for poll performance is unfair. However, in Punjab, Captain is the final word not just because of his post, but also because he is the senior-most leader. Sidhu’s out-of-turn statements are hurting the party and, naturally, Monday’s meeting could draw a sharp reaction from Captain," a senior party leader from Punjab said, requesting anonymity.
Soon after the Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress won 8 out of 13 seats, Captain had said the party in Punjab performed poorly in urban areas, while Sidhu was the minister for urban development. In retaliation, Sidhu hit out at the chief minister for singling him out for the party’s performance.
Sidhu, a four time parliamentarian, was earlier in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but switched sides in the run-up to the 2017 assembly elections, following which the Congress formed the government. The cricketer-turned-politician was then sworn in as a state minister. Last week, he was divested of the portfolios of local government, tourism and cultural affairs, and was instead given charge of power and new and renewable energy sources.