Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will not meet Navjot Singh Sidhu, his bitter rival and the newly-appointed chief of the Congress’ state unit, until he apologises for his social media attacks, a member of Mr Singh’s team tweeted Tuesday night, in signs the two leaders’ feud is far from over.
A tweet from Mr Singh’s media strategist dismissed reports that Mr Sidhu had sought time to meet the Chief Minister following his elevation as leader of the Congress’ Punjab unit, and said a meeting could not happen till the ex-cricketer apologised for “personally derogatory social media attacks”.
“Reports of @sherryontop seeking time to meet @capt_amarinder are totally false. No time has been sought whatsoever. No change in stance… CM won’t meet #NavjotSinghSidhu till he publicly apologises for his personally derogatory social media attacks against him.” Raveen Thukral wrote.
Reports of @sherryontop seeking time to meet @capt_amarinder are totally false. No time has been sought whatsoever. No change in stance… CM won’t meet #NavjotSinghSidhu till he publicly apologises for his personally derogatory social media attacks against him. pic.twitter.com/VBvGzUsZe6
— Raveen Thukral (@RT_MediaAdvPBCM) July 20, 2021
The tweet will come as a disappointment for the party’s high command, which must have hoped that weeks of infighting and threats to a re-election bid were settled on Monday – after Mr Sidhu’s promotion and the appointment of Working Presidents according to Mr Singh’s specifications.
The warning signs were there all along though, most notable of which has been the absence, so far, of an apology from Mr Sidhu – a key rider to Amarinder Singh burying the hatchet.
On Monday sources said Mr Singh and his camp viewed the compromise formula and Mr Sidhu’s elevation as a snub, particularly since an apology was absent and key conditions laid down by the Chief Minister had been ignored.
These conditions included vetting of new Working Presidents for Punjab Congress. Four were announced – in line with Mr Singh’s demand to keep the focus on Hindus and Dalits. However, none were signed-off by him, despite that being another key condition.
The Gandhis had signed off on the compromise formula on Sunday, despite a group of Punjab MPs from Mr Singh’s camp expressing reservations over his promotion.
The Gandhis signed off on the decision on a day MPs supporting the Chief Minister had requested a meeting with party chief Sonia Gandhi to express their reservations about Mr Sidhu’s appointment.
The proposed peace formula was arrived at after extensive meetings held by a three-member committee appointed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi; the committee met Mr Singh, Mr Sidhu and MPs and MLAs from both camps.
Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu have been locked in a 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.