In what is being seen as yet another round of confrontation between Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and PCC Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, the latter on Thursday said that he will go on a hunger strike against the Congress government if the state does not make public the reports on drugs menace and the sacrilege incident.
“If this report is not made public, then it should be answered that why the previous chief minister was sleeping for four and a half years, it should be found out why the home minister kept sleeping,’” the Punjab Congress chief asked.
#WATCH | Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu says he will go on a hunger strike against the state govt if it doesn’t make public the reports on drugs menace & the sacrilege incident pic.twitter.com/xfb0cb2xuG— ANI (@ANI) November 25, 2021
He said that taking action against those involved in the sacrilege case was one of the promises that the Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh had made to the people of Punjab. Sidhu had previously too targeted the Channi-led government on the reports and said that people who voted for the Congress would lose hope if they do not see any action being taken against the culprits.
The development comes just two days after the two held deliberations with Congress leaders in Delhi to evolve a strategy for the upcoming state assembly polls. Both Channi and Sidhu had reached the national capital on Monday afternoon along with AICC in-charge for Punjab affairs Harish Chaudhary and later met at the party’s ”war-room” office.
This is not the first time Sidhu has launched a direct attack on the new chief minister. The former cricketer has been at loggerheads the Channi government over the appointment of APS Deol as the Advocate General and the two have clashed publicly over the legal fight in the 2015 sacrilege cases.
Channi had, in early November, turned down the resignation offered by Advocate General APS Deol. Sources had told News18 then that Deol was upset by statements by senior Congress leaders, including Sidhu, over his continuation as the Advocate General had indeed tendered his resignation, which was rejected by the chief minister. Though the government and the chief minister were tight-lipped over the resignation controversy, sources said Channi was upset at PCC Chief continuing to publicly attack him.
Later, state minister and Sidhu aide, Pargat Singh, was asked to call the sulking leader and get him to attend a meeting with the CM and state in-charge Harish Choudhary. At the meeting, Sidhu made it clear that he would not budge until the advocate general was removed. And at a press conference, Sidhu made the point that while he was taking back his resignation, he would enter the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office only when the AG‘s resignation was accepted by the chief minister.
Sources said that the CM made one more attempt to convince the top leadership as well as Sidhu that an amicable middle ground can be reached.
Sidhu, however, refused to accept it. He knew very well that this was a high moral ground he was taking, so tactically he decided to go to the Dera Baba Nanak check-post and urge for the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor with Pakistan. Hours later, a similar request was made by Channi.
A day prior to this, Sidhu had, in what was seen as an indirect dig at Channi, flayed ‘politicians’ who announced freebies ahead of the polls. Channi has been of late announcing several sops putting strain on the state exchequer.
In the same week, he also attacked the Channi government over delays in filing plea against blanket bail to former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini in the Behbal Kalan firing case. Sidhu said that the Channi government lacked political will in dealing with such cases, accusing the ruling dispensation of delaying the filing of special leave petition against the blanket bail granted to former DGP Saini, one of the key persons named in the Behbal Kalan police firing cases.
He further said that it has been one day over and above the six-month period for the new SIT to complete probe in the Kotkapura police firing case and yet no concrete steps for justice had been taken. He again targeted the DGP and the AG, asserting that the party can either choose the compromised officers or him.
“I have stood on principles and high moral ground, and am not among those who changed their stand after dethroning Capt Amarinder Singh,” said Sidhu in a veiled attack on Channi, adding that the people of the state were awaiting justice in the sacrilege case and the state government was perceived to be lacking in the “will” to deliver justice.
Both the leaders are likely to flex their muscles again once the assembly election dates for next year are announced. The next big challenge for the Congress party will be the ticket distribution in Punjab as both Channi as well as Sidhu would want to ensure that most of their supporters get picked as candidates. Because the one with the backing of the maximum number of MLAs will most likely wear the crown of Punjab.
With this renewed threat by the PPCC chief, the rift between the CM and the chief minister has just widened a bit more and even as the Channi-led government has given in to a lot of other demands laid down by Sidhu, including the removal of the AG and the DGP, it remains to be seen if this demand of Sidhu too would be adhered to in the coming days.
(With inputs from Swati Bhan)