Controversial comments by Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Sidhu’s advisers threaten to shatter his fragile truce with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who has publicly told them off for “atrocious and ill-conceived comments” on sensitive national issues. After the Chief Minister’s warning, Navjot Sidhu summoned both his advisers, Malwinder Singh Mali and Pyare Lal Garg, to his home in Patiala this morning.
Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Mali, appointed advisers by Mr Sidhu on August 11, made headlines last this week with their comments on Pakistan and Kashmir.
Mr Mali suggested in Facebook posts that both India and Pakistan were illegal occupants in Kashmir. “Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. Going against the tenets of the UNO resolutions, India and Pakistan have illegally usurped Kashmir. If Kashmir was a part of India, then what was the need to have Articles 370 and 35-A? What was the special agreement with King Hari Singh? Tell people what were the terms of the agreement,” he wrote.
In another post, he wrote on the Taliban: “Now it is their responsibility to protect Sikhs and Hindus. They will rule to improve the condition of the country, not like before.”
Mr Mali had also posted a sketch in June of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showing her standing near a heap of human skulls, holding a gun with a skull hanging on its muzzle. The image was captioned: “Every repression is defeated”. The sketch was linked to the 1984 riots when hundreds of Sikhs were killed in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. The sketch was on the cover page of the June 1989 issue of a Punjabi magazine titled “Jantak Paigam ( Public Message)”, edited by Mr Mali.
Pyare Lal Garg had questioned Amarinder Singh’s criticism of Pakistan.
The provocative comments have become a huge embarrassment for Mr Sidhu, who has been trying to establish his grip on the Congress in Punjab after negotiating a tricky peace pact with Amarinder Singh ahead of the state elections next year.
The bitterness between the rivals seems to lurk just beneath the surface. Even this morning, Mr Sidhu appeared to needle the Chief Minister amid the government’s talks with sugarcane farmers: “The sugarcane farmers issue needs to be immediately resolved amicably …. Strange that despite the higher cost of cultivation in Punjab the state assured price is too low as compared to Haryana / UP / Uttarakhand. As torchbearer of agriculture, the Punjab SAP should be better !”
The sugarcane farmers issue needs to be immediately resolved amicably …. Strange that despite the higher cost of cultivation in Punjab the state assured price is too low as compared to Haryana / UP / Uttarakhand. As torchbearer of agriculture, the Punjab SAP should be better !
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) August 23, 2021
On Sunday, Amarinder Singh had let loose a sharp and public attack at Mr Sidhu’s advisers over comments that he said were “potentially dangerous” to the peace and stability of Punjab and the country and “totally misplaced and antagonistic” to the stated position of India and the Congress on Pakistan and Kashmir. Expressing shock, he urged Mr Sidhu to rein in his advisors before they ended up doing more damage to India’s interests.
Congress leader Manish Tewari today suggested that the party should introspect whether these leaders should be in the party.
“I urge Harish Rawat to seriously introspect that those who do not consider Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India and others who have ostensibly Pro Pakistan leanings should be a part of Congress. It mocks all those who shed blood for India,” the Congress MP tweeted.