Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is fit to be the leader of the party in the state but former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu should also be given a key role ahead of next year’s assembly elections, a three-member panel set up to resolve infighting within Congress party in Punjab has recommended.
The panel, comprising Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat, and senior leader JP Agarwal, submitted its report to party chief Sonia Gandhi on June 10.
The panel had been working to resolve the crisis for two weeks now and had meetings with Amarinder Singh, Sidhu, and at least 150 legislators and party functionaries from the Congress-ruled state going to polls next year.
While the panel thinks that Amarinder Singh should continue to lead the party in the next elections, it also suggested that there is a need to have a second rung leadership ready, according to reports. Besides, the committee recommended that the state Congress committee be overhauled.
READ: Trouble in Congress’ Punjab unit is latest example of a weakening high command
It is now for Sonia Gandhi to decide if Sidhu is accommodated in the government or the party, said a leader.
In all, the panel has made five recommendations including accommodating Sidhu in the party or as a top minister, revamping the organisation, reaching out to marginalised castes and give key positions to Dalits, and filling up vacancies in boards and corporations to fit in party leaders.
The infighting in Punjab Congress started after a section of party leaders contended that the ruling party cannot win the next year’s assembly election under Amarinder Singh’s leadership. Punjab is one of three states ruled by Congress. The other two states where the party is in power are Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Also, read: Punjab politics | Navjot Singh Sidhu cannot be made deputy CM or state party chief, Amarinder Singh tells Congress panel
The reasons for grievances against the Punjab CM include his alleged failure to take action against those responsible for the police firing on a crowd who had been protesting incidents of ‘sacrilege’ in 2015, under-representation of Dalits in the government, and the inaccessibility of the Amarinder Singh due to his ‘coterie’.
Among the prominent Congress leaders opposing Amarinder Singh is cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu who has had a troubled relationship with the CM since the party came to power in Punjab in 2017.
The two leaders were involved in a war of words recently after a High Court order scrapped the report of a Special Investigation Team in the Guru Granth Sahib desecration case, and asked the state to set up a new team.
Sidhu had joined the Congress after leaving the BJP before the 2017 assembly elections.
Also, read: Congress crisis: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh opposes leadership change, says Gandhis are 'right fit for leadership'
Congress won the 2017 Punjab assembly election by bagging 77 of the 117 seats. AAP won 20 and Shiromani Akali Dal bagged 15 seats.