Amarinder vs Sidhu: Why it’s a deja vu moment for Punjab Congress – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The ongoing tussle between the factions of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu seems to be a grim reminder of the infighting which the party had witnessed ahead of the 1997 assembly election.
Dissent in the Punjab Congress in 1996 was at its peak during the chief ministership of Harcharan Singh Brar. The assembly election was held on February 7, 1997. The state unit of the party had scheduled to launch its campaign on November 20, 1996.
However, on November 20, 1996 itself, which was less than three months ahead of the assembly election, the Congress high command replaced Harcharan Singh Brar with Rajinder Kaur Bhattal – the first and only woman chief minister of Punjab who has remained on the chair for just 82 days, the shortest tenure of any CM in the state.
As against Brar, Bhattal was believed to be an aggressive leader who had adopted a tough stand against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Amarinder Singh and Sidhu have close resemblance to Brar and Bhattal respectively.
However, the Congress lost miserably in the 1997 assembly election. Of the total 117 seats in the assembly, the party contested on 105 seats but was victorious on only 14 seats.
On the other hand, SAD won 75 and its then alliance partner BJP was victorious on 18 seats. Together they formed the government with Parkash Singh Badal as the CM. The SAD-BJP government lasted its full term of five years.
Even in the 1996 Lok Sabha election, the Congress won only two of the 13 seats it contested.
It may be a deja vu moment for the Punjab Congress. It is witnessing the same situation at present ever since Sidhu took up cudgels against Amarinder Singh.
With his goodwill with the Nehru-Gandhis, Sidhu got a meeting convened to undertake review of the state government under Amarinder Singh. The meetings scrutinised the works accomplished and unfulfilled promises of the party’s 2017 assembly election manifesto.
Sidhu also had his way in getting appointed as the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). The Congress leaders might have expected that it would put an end to the bitter infighting between him and Amarinder Singh. The infighting has flared up instead.
The latest trigger was some controversial remarks made about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and former prime minister Indira Gandhi by two advisers – Malwinder Singh Mali and Dr Pyare Lal Garg – of Sidhu.
While Garg questioned Punjab Amarinder Singh’s criticism of Pakistan, Mali passed a controversial remark on Kashmir. Mali also posted an objectionable poster of Indira Gandhi on social media.
The two advisors were slammed by many Congress leaders, including Amarinder Singh and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari. Following this, Sidhu summoned his advisers.
Besides, senior leader in-charge of PPCC Harish Rawat hinted that action would be taken against the two advisers if the allegations against them prove to be correct.
In retaliation, four ministers and 26 MLAs sought Amarinder Singh’s ouster as CM. On the other hand, another faction of MLAs pledged their support to the CM.
A delegation of some Punjab ministers and MLAs met Harish Rawat in Dehradun on Wednesday to press for their demand of removal of Amarinder Singh as CM. The demand comes barely six months before the state assembly election.
After meeting the delegation of ministers and MLA, Harish Rawat said the party would contest the 2022 state assembly election under the leadership of Amarinder Singh.
Despite Harish Rawat clearing the air that there would not be any change of leadership, a delegation of the dissenters is likely to meet the high command to seek removal of Amarinder Singh from his post.
The developments appear to be a repeat of the happenings that had taken place in the Punjab Congress ahead of the 1997 state assembly election as well.

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Amarinder vs Sidhu: Why it’s a deja vu moment for Punjab Congress – Times of India

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