Punjab crisis: Amarinder agrees to Sidhu's elevation, but no official word yet
New Delhi, July 17: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has reportedly agreed to a Congress plan to promote rival Navjot Singh Sidhu as the party's state president but with some conditions.
Captain Singh's assent comes after his meeting with AICC general secretary and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, who flew down to Chandigarh in what was seen as an effort to placate the chief minister.
According to NDTV, the 79-year-old has demanded that he be given a free hand in reshuffling his cabinet and in the appointment of working presidents under Sidhu and he should be involved by the party leadership while taking important decisions.
Amarinder Singh is learnt to have told Rawat that he will not meet Sidhu till he publicly regrets or apologises for his tweets against him.
Sidhu has been critical of Amarinder Singh after the Punjab and Haryana High Court in April quashed a probe into the 2015 Kotkapura firing case. Sidhu had questioned the alleged "deliberate delay" in ensuring justice and had accused Amarinder of evading responsibility in the 2015 sacrilege case.
Any decision taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be acceptable to all, Amarinder had said earlier.
Meanwhile, the cricketer-turned-politician held a series of meetings through the day with Punjab Pradesh Congress President Sunil Jakhar as well as several MLAs, including loyalists of the chief minister, fuelling further speculation about next steps in the dissension-riven Punjab Congress that has long been caught in the Sidhu-Amarinder feud.
Suspense has been building up over the much-awaited announcement from the party high command on the resolution of the festering feud in the Punjab Congress.
In case the party chooses to appoint Sidhu as PPCC chief, there will be two Jat Sikhs in key posts. While Amarinder Singh is also a Jat Sikh, Jakhar is a Hindu.
There is also talk of appointing two working presidents--a Dalit and a Hindu face -- to balance caste equations. Though there was no official word, Sidhu''s supporters were upbeat at reports that he would be given the key post and there were reports that preparations for celebrations were already underway.
Party sources said reports of Sidhu''s supporters celebrating in advance have irked Amarinder.
Rawat had maintained that the central leadership is working out a peace formula where both leaders could work together to help the party win the Punjab Assembly polls next year.
The Congress had set up a three-member panel, headed by leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, to resolve the infighting in the Punjab unit. Both Sidhu and Amarinder Singh had also met the panel.
The rival leaders have often aired their differences in public and made statements against each other.
Amid reports of Sidhu''s elevation, party MP Manish Tewari has batted for a Hindu face for the PCC chief''s post while giving details of the composition of the state''s population.
"Punjab is both progressive and secular but balancing social interest groups is key. Equality is the foundation of social justice!" he said in the tweet, while giving details of Punjab''s demography.
Sikhs, he said, constitute 57.75 per cent of the population, while Hindus and Dalits constitute 38.49 and 31.94 per cent respectively.
with PTI inputs