Navjot Singh Sidhu is likely to be appointed as chief of the Congress’ Punjab unit shortly, sources said Thursday afternoon, as the party closes in on a formula to quell the intense infighting that has endangered its campaign for next year’s Assembly election.
Mr Sidhu, whose long-running feud with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was the highlight of the infighting, will replace Sunil Jakkar, with two other leaders likely to be named Working Presidents – one from the Dalit community and the other a Hindu face.
As part of the compromise Amarinder Singh will also overhaul his Council of Ministers, with Charanjit Channi and Gurpreet Kangar among those likely to be sacked. Assembly Speaker Rana KP Singh and MLA and Dalit leader Raj Kumar Verka are among the three or four new faces expected.
Representation of the Dalit community was one of the demands put forward by MLAs last month to the three-member committee set up by party chief Sonia Gandhi to resolve this issue.
The committee met both leaders as part of its deliberations.
News of a compromise between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu comes a week after the Chief Minister met party chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.
After the meeting he said he would accept “whatever decision is taken by the Congress high command” – comments seen as a significant step towards settling his feud with Mr Sidhu.
That meeting came days after Mr Sidhu met Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra; the Sidhu-Rahul-Priyanka meeting was facilitated by Ms Gandhi Vadra, after Mr Gandhi seemed to snub the former cricketer by insisting he had no scheduled interaction with him.
Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu have maintained a running feud since the 2017 election; Mr Sidhu hoped to be made Deputy Chief Minister but that move was reportedly scuttled by Mr Singh.
Mr Sidhu, the Congress’s star campaigner in the 2017 polls, instead became a minister in the Amarinder Singh government but quit two years later after his ministry was downgraded.
After prolonged silence and detachment from party affairs, he began re-targeting Amarinder Singh in recent months, becoming a hard-to-ignore problem in the run-up to the Punjab polls.
His recent attacks include swipes at the Chief Minister over the power crisis (Mr Singh heads the Power Ministry) and on the Punjab government’s legal setback in a 2015 case involving the desecration of the Sikh religious text Guru Granth Sahib and police firing during peaceful protests.
There were indications of a possible resolution this week, after Mr Sidhu’s latest tweet-attack on the power crisis. Unlike the earlier one, this was reserved for the Congress’ rivals – the Akali Dal and AAP.
Last month, Mr Sidhu told NDTV he was ready to work with Mr Singh but only if the Chief Minister met promises made to the people before the last assembly elections.
Mr Singh had earlier slammed Mr Sidhu over his relentless offensive and complained to the party leadership about what he called “total indiscipline” by the cricketer-turned-politician.