Navjot Sidhu should dismiss his advisers and if he fails to do so, the party will, senior Congress leader Harish Rawat told NDTV on Wednesday. The unambiguous message for the new Punjab Congress chief come after a fresh burst of rebellion against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh after he called out “atrocious and ill-conceived” comments from Mr Sidhu’s advisers.
Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Mali, who recently joined Mr Sidhu’s team, made headlines with their comments last week on Pakistan and Kashmir. In Facebook posts, Mr Mali suggested that both India and Pakistan were illegal occupants in Kashmir.
“It is not this or that camp who objected (to those statements). The whole party and the state have objections too. The party has a line on Jammu and Kashmir — that it is a part of India,” Harish Rawat , the Congress in-charge of Punjab, told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
Asked how the party would tackle the controversy, Mr Rawat said, “These advisers were not appointed by the party. We have asked Sidhu to dismiss them. If Sidhu does not do that, I will. We do not want people who embarrass the party.”
Mr Rawat sidestepped the question of whether Amarinder Singh would remain the Chief Ministerial candidate and the face of the party during the election . “We cannot repeat the same thing,” he said.
“Every party has a set procedure. We will follow that. When the new legislature of the party sits (after the election in case of a victory) then they will take a decision,” he said.
Mr Singh’s critics have been calling for his removal. “Captain should be replaced else the Congress won’t survive… we will meet Sonia Gandhi over the issue,” said Punjab minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa after a meeting of 23 party MLAs, including four ministers, on Tuesday.
Mr Rawat played down the rebellion against Mr Singh, saying the leaders whom he met on Wednesday afternoon did not seek the Chief Minister’s removal. The issues they raised, he claimed, were local issues which will be flagged to the party leadership.
He also vehemently denied that the persisting crisis in the state could be a telling comment on the party leadership’s abilities.
“Issues come up as things progress and it depends on the local leaders how they address it. In this case, the government could not solve it, and so things escalated to this level,” he added.
Asked if the matter will be sorted before next year’s state elections, Mr Rawat said, “There is no question of this issue not being solved because they (the MLAs) have said that they will accept the decision of the party leaders… These things happen in any dynamic party. We will settle this. We have a procedure”.