Punjab Congress infighting: Here’s what we know so far

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Punjab CM Amarinder Singh wary of parallel power centre even as Navjot Singh Sidhu plays his cards.

Punjab Congress infighting: Here’s what we know so far
It was another day of meetings and discussions with the infighting in the Punjab unit of the Congress refusing to die out. Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been at loggerheads with Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, met with party chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on July 16. Sidhu also met Harish Rawat, the Congress party's Punjab in-charge. Sidhu refrained from speaking to the media after the meeting.
Captain Amarinder Singh had met Sonia Gandhi last week, after which he said he would accept "whatever decision" the Congress chief would take. However, with the escalating rift, the party high command wanted to announce the name of the next Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief on July 16 itself.
Meanwhile, Rawat informed the media that he has submitted his note to Sonia Gandhi. He, however, was informed about a compromise formula on July 15. "I believe the Congress president will take her time and come to a decision soon," said Rawat.
Sidhu as New PCC Chief
Just before the meeting of Sidhu with Sonia Gandhi, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted the demographics of Punjab, according to which Sikhs constitute the maximum 57.75 percent of the population, while Hindus comprise 38.49 percent. And Dalits, including both Sikhs and Hindus, constitute 31.94 percent of the population.
“Punjab is both progressive and secular. But balancing social interest groups is the key. Equality is the foundation of social justice!” he tweeted, tagging the Congress party and Rawat.
Sidhu and Singh are both Jat Sikhs, while the current Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar is a Hindu. The tweet could be a  subtle hint that if Sidhu is named the party chief in the state, both the top leaders of the state will be from the Sikh community. So speculations are rife that the Congress high command will not declare Sidhu as the PCC boss.
Other Appointments
Meanwhile, appointments of two working presidents and chiefs of campaign, coordination and manifesto committees are also likely to be made. Media reports suggest that two Hindu leaders, including a first-time MLA, are among those who are being considered for these posts. However, as the state is going to polls early next year the Congress chief is likely to finalise these selections.
Amarinder Singh vs Navjot Singh Sidhu
Amarinder Singh is reluctant to allow a parallel power centre in the state. That is why he is reportedly against the elevation of Navjot Singh Sidhu in the state unit of Congress or his larger role in state politics. On July 15, there was a dramatic escalation in the crisis with a flurry of meetings between rival factions.
The Indian Express reported that Sidhu has garnered support from at least five state cabinet ministers and 10-15 MLAs after Singh expressed his displeasure with the cricketer-turned-politician. Several leaders feared that the party was up for a split.
On July 15, Sidhu held a meeting with six MLAs, including cabinet ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Charanjit Singh Channi and Tript Rajinder Bajwa, who had openly rebelled against Amarinder Singh.
It has also been learnt that if Sidhu is not named the PPCC chief, his supporters may quit unanimously.
On the other hand, the CM met the party MLAs and MPs, who support him, at his private farmhouse in Mohali. They are reportedly ready to quit if Sidhu is named the PCC chief, The Indian Express reported. Even Rawat’s scheduled visit on July 15 to Chandigarh to meet Singh was cancelled.
AAP’s Reaction
Meanwhile, the main opposition party in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is cautiously watching the developments even as Sidhu praised the AAP for its “recognition of his vision and work for Punjab '' in a series of tweets on July 13. Some leaders called the move a gimmick.
A few AAP leaders termed Sidhu’s tweets as posturing against the Congress. Another AAP leader involved in the election strategy for Punjab said Sidhu has succeeded in getting the attention he was looking for.
Responding to a question on Sidhu’s tweets, AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on July 15 said, “I am happy that AAP is doing such a good job that even opposition leaders are praising us. So, one feels encouraged about it.”

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