Navjot Singh Sidhu, Congress's Punjab chief, has been told to dismiss his advisors who recently made controversial comments on Kashmir. This is the second strong message to Sidhu, who has been heading a rebellion against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in as many days. On Wednesday, the party, dismissing demands from Sidhu camp for Singh's removal, made it clear that the CM would lead the Congress charge in elections next year.
"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," Congress Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat told ndtv.com
Sidhu's advisors Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Mali landed in controversy with their recent comments on Pakistan and Kashmir. In Facebook posts, Mali described Kashmir as a 'country of Kashmiri people' and that both India and Pakistan were illegal occupants of Kashmir. He had also questioned why Jammu and Kashmir has been "turned into an open jail."
This drew sharp criticism from both within and outside the party. Amarinder Singh, taking exception to the comments, asked Sidhu to rein in his advisors. Sidhu did summon both but what transpired at the meeting was not known. Mali, however, sounded defiant after the meeting saying, "Whatever I had to say, I've said on social media, and that is final. If anyone makes a mistake, they should reflect."
Sidhu and Singh are engaged in a running feud for years now with the cricketer-turned-politician resigning as a state minister in 2019 after he was divested of his local bodies portfolio. He had switched sides from the BJP to the Congress before the 2017 Assembly polls.
In July, the Congres high command stepped in and decided to elevate Sidhu to PCC chief's post. Amarinder Singh was not happy about the decision but gave in to the Gandhis. The peace formula was shortlived as Sidhu continued to take potshots at the CM and his government, criticising his way of functioning.
A few days back, the Sidhu camp -- including 23 party MLAs -- sought the Chief Minister's resignation. This was matched by Amarinder Singh loyalists - five ministers and one MLA - demanding action against Sidhu's advisors.
But, the part snubbed the Sidhu camp and made it clear that Amarinder Singh would lead the party into assembly elections due early next year. How Sidhu responds to back-to-back pushback by the party remains to be seen.