Navjot Singh Sidhu is rounding up MLAs in Punjab as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s team is holding meetings with Congress MPs in Delhi to block his elevation as the state Congress chief. Mr Sidhu, who has been in Patiala for around a week, started meeting MLAs across the board yesterday. On Saturday, he met around 30 MLAs, working through lunch.
Sources say his choice of venue sends a message. The city is the political turf of the Chief Minister.
While Patiala is also the hometown of Mr Sidhu, his political career has been centred on Amritsar, the seat Atal Bihari Vajpayee offered him to contest, impressed with his commentary in the India-Pakistan cricket series.
Of the eight assembly seats in In Patiala, the Congress has seven MLAs. The remaining one belongs to the opposition Akali Dal.
Besides Mr Singh, the Congress MLAs from Patiala include cabinet ministers Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Brahm Mohindra, Madan Lal Jalalpur, Nirmal Singh Shutrana, Hardyal Singh Kamboj and Rajinder Singh.
The Chief Minister has the support of the two cabinet ministers and Mr Sidhu started his campaign in the city meeting the three MLAs — Madan Lal, Nirmal Singh, Hardyal Kamboj. He has also met Lal Singh, the father of MLA Rajinder Singh.
The infighting within the Congress which initially started over multiple issues including the state government’s alleged failure to meet pre-poll promises — has become focussed on the elevation of Mr Sidhu to the post of the party’s state unit chief over the last weeks.
Several rounds of meetings with Gandhis — who came up with a compromise formula that allowed the elevation of Mr Sidhu– have been unable to resolve the situation.
Since Thursday, both sides have been rounding up their MLAs in what appeared a precursor to a split.
Alarmed, the Congress central leaders contacted Mr Singh, who signed off on the peace plan but with riders.
But the advances made over Friday and Saturday appeared to slip away as Team Amarinder shifted to Delhi and started efforts to meet Punjab MPs for the support to block Mr Sidhu’s elevation.
The group is likely to meet the Gandhis to demand a roll back of the decision, sources said.