Punjab CM Amarinder Singh plays it cool with subtle show of strength

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Friday put out a strong defence of his government’s record when he met the three-member AICC panel looking into issues within the Punjab Congress and its regime, it is learnt. In what is seen as a show of strength, many Congress MLAs, MPs and ministers called on Singh at the Kapurthala House during the past two days before he set out to meet AICC representatives, making it clear he was no pushover.

The CM countered his internal critics by telling the panel that a special investigation team set up by his regime was advancing with its works to unravel the culprits in 2015 sacrilege case and the subsequent police firing on a group of protesters, Congress insiders said. There are indications that the CM complained about ‘some vested interests’ working to create rift in the Punjab Congress and the government in the run up to the assembly polls. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra too talked with the CM, party insiders said.

AICC general secretary in-charge Harish Rawat later said the internal consultations were over and the leadership and stakeholders would sort out all issues. While Singh is not very keen to accept Navjot Sidhu’s push for PCC presidency, he is learnt to have told the panel that his advice to Sidhu to take back the ministership he had quit was pending, but the manner in which he (Sidhu) was conducting himself was unacceptable. Certain social and political re-engineering of PCC and the government is on cards as part of uniting the party ahead of polls.

After meeting the panel, Singh refused to speak about it to the media, saying he won’t reveal internal party matter. “It’s an internal matter and there is no need for any public discussion… Elections are due in 6 months and we have to work together and win the elections.” The seasoned CM’s restraint conduct before the media, some Congress leaders said, contrasted with Navjot Sidhu’s ‘performance’ before TV channels after his meeting with the panel two days ago. Congress MP PS Bajwa, another vocal critic of Singh, also held a meeting with the panel.

After the meeting, Rawat said: “We had a conversation with the CM for almost three hours. He shared his roadmap for the 2022 Punjab elections. We’ll share this with the Congress president.” On queries related to Singh-Sidhu differences, Rawat played down the Sidhu factor. “At one stage, I was trying to bring Sidhu and Captain Amarinder Singh together in a team but now other things have also come up which are more important than this.”

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