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No factionalism in Punjab, just diversity of views: Congress as Amarinder, Sidhu spar publicly

"Why do you forget that democracy is all about diversity?" Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told a press conference.

Published: 19th May 2021 01:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2021 01:03 AM   |  A+A-

Former Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. (File | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Amid a public war of words between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Congress Tuesday said it just reflects a diversity of views among its leaders which cannot be termed factionalism.

"Why do you forget that democracy is all about diversity?" Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told a press conference.

"It is wrong to give it the name of factionalism."

She said the priority of Punjab chief minister is to fight and defeat the Covid pandemic, and not anything else including the alleged infighting.

She also said there was no need for the central leadership to intervene in the state unit matters as issues arising out of differences of opinions can be resolved within the party at various levels.

"In Punjab, there is diversity of views as there could be differences of opinion between the leaders, but there is no factionalism," she said when asked about the open sparring between Singh and Sidhu.

Amarinder Singh and Sidhu have publicly sparred over the probe into the sacrilege issue, after the High Court quashed the probe report by the SIT headed by Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh.

Sidhu raised questions over the delay in granting justice in the sacrilege case.

"The Congress party believes that the more diversity in views bring better solutions," Shrinate said.

ALSO READ | Badals never indicted in sacrilege cases: Bikram Majithia hits back at Congress

Without naming any leader, she said that at least the CM is not threatening doctors or bodies are not flowing in rivers in Punjab as the focus is on controlling the pandemic and not infighting.

She claimed that unlike in BJP-ruled states where "leaders are afraid to speak out", Congress members in states ruled by it express their thoughts openly and freely.

There has been alleged infighting within the Punjab unit of the Congress with Sidhu taking up issues with the chief minister on one side and former minister Pargat Singh alleging that he was threatened by a close aide of Singh in the chief minister's office.

Rajya Sabha MPs from Punjab Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo have also been critical of the chief minister and have raised questions on several decisions and issues of governance in the state.

Sidhu on Tuesday fired a fresh salvo against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, alleging that his party colleagues were being threatened for speaking the truth.

Sidhu's remarks came a day after party legislator Pargat Singh accused Sandeep Sandhu, political advisor to the chief minister, of threatening him for questioning the state government over the sacrilege incidents.

ALSO READ | Congress MLA Pargat Singh accuses Amarinder's political advisor of threatening him

Amarinder Singh and Sidhu have publicly sparred over the probe into the sacrilege issue after the High Court last month quashed an SIT probe report into the 2015 Kotkapura firing incident, in which police had allegedly fired at people protesting the desecration of a religious text in the state.

Sidhu has accused Amarinder Singh of evading responsibility in the sacrilege case.

On Tuesday, he uploaded a video of Pargat Singh's press conference on his Twitter handle.

"Ministers, MLAs & MPs raising People's Issues are strengthening the Party, fulfilling their Democratic Duty & exercising their Constitutional Right. But everyone who speaks the truth becomes your enemy. Thus, you threaten your party colleagues, exhibiting your fear & insecurity, (sic)" said Sidhu in a tweet.

However, the Congress on Tuesday said there is no factionalism in its state unit but only diversity of views among the leaders.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the priority of Punjab chief minister is to fight the Covid pandemic and take control over it and not anything else.

"In Punjab, there is diversity of views as there could be differences of opinion between the leaders, but there is no factionalism," Shrinate said when asked about the open war of words between Singh and Sidhu.

Rajya Sabha MPs from Punjab - Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo -- have also been critical of the chief minister and have raised questions on several decisions and issues of governance in the state.

Bajwa on Tuesday urged Harish Rawat, the in-charge of Punjab affairs at the AICC, to come to Punjab and hold meetings with all legislators to take stock of the political situation.

ALSO READ | Sacrilege case: Enquiry against Sidhu, pressure on others who criticised Punjab CM Amarinder Singh

He also asked CM Amarinder Singh to clarify Pargat Singh's accusation of being threatened by his political adviser.

Pargat Singh, who is close to Sidhu, had said he was ready to face any "punishment" for speaking the truth and raising issues of sacrilege and review of power purchase agreements.

The latest flashpoint between the chief minister and his rivals in the partty has been the state women panel chief threatening to go on a hunger strike to press for action against state minister Charanjit Singh Channi over a case of alleged harassment of an IAS officer.

Former Punjab Congress chief Bajwa claimed 12 MLAs, including five ministers, were present during a meeting on Tuesday at the residence of Channi, who is the state's Technical Education Minister.

Punjab State Women Commission chairperson Manisha Gulati had threatened to go on a hunger strike if the state government failed to apprise her within a week of its stand on the issue of an "inappropriate text" message allegedly sent by Channi to a woman IAS officer in 2018.

Among those who went to Channi's residence were state minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Jalandhar Cantonment MLA Pargat Singh.

Throwing his weight behind Channi, Randhawa questioned the commission chairperson for "raking up" the alleged harassment case after more than two years.

"In this case, when there is no complaint and raising the issue now is unfortunate," said Randhawa.

Bajwa said Channi called off a press conference scheduled for Tuesday after the intervention of the central party leadership.

To another question, he said the Vigilance Bureau should not be used against party leaders as this may create an "explosive situation".

"If they try to investigate their own people, then they will face stiff opposition," he said, apparently referring to reports of a Vigilance probe against those considered close to Sidhu and his wife.

Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar on Monday had trashed reports of vigilance probe against party leaders and had asserted there was no truth in it.



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