Sidhu, Channi target of blame game as Congress to meet on Tuesday to discuss Punjab polls rout

Former party chief Sunil Jakhar has hit out at those who described former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as an asset, while reviewing the debacle at a meeting in Delhi on Sunday.

Published: 15th March 2022 04:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2022 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and former CM Charanjit Singh Channi (File Photo| Parveen Negi, EPS)

Express News Service

CHANDIGARH:  Knives are out in Punjab Congress following the party’s severe drubbing in the recent Assembly polls. The state unit has called a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the debacle.

With most leaders blaming Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, chances of him being replaced cannot be ruled out.

Former party chief Sunil Jakhar has hit out at those who described former Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as an asset, while reviewing the debacle at a meeting in Delhi on Sunday.

Without taking the name of senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni, Jakhar tweeted, “Thank god he wasn’t declared a ‘national treasure’ at CWC by the ‘Pbi’ lady who proposed him as the CM.  Maybe an asset for her but for the party, he has been only a liability. Not the top brass, but his own greed pulled him and the party down.’’

Jakhar added, “The fight among leaders for the post of the CM ruined the party. These leaders had turned suicide bombers for the party.’’

While senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ajay Maken have said that the high command’s decision of replacing Amarinder Singh with Channi as CM was justified, they said the decision was too late. Maken, who was also chairman of the Punjab Screening Committee, criticised state party chief Sidhu for the rout.

“When the party was trying to work out relief in electricity bills during the Channi government, Sidhu’s statements created an atmosphere against the government,’’ he said.

In an apparent reference to reports that Channi was praised at the Congress Working Committee meeting on Sunday, Jakhar tweeted,"An asset - r u joking?" "Thank God he wasn't declared a 'National Treasure' at CWC by the 'Pbi' lady who proposed him as CM in first place. Maybe an asset for her but for the party he has been only a liability," he said.

"Not the top brass, but his own greed pulled him and the party down," Jakhar said, targeting Channi in the tweet that underscored the persisting infighting in the Punjab unit of the Congress.

The tweet also included a picture of Channi and a headline, "ED seizes Rs 10 crore from Channi's nephew; CM cries foul".

He did not mention Soni by name in the tweet or while talking later to PTI, but appeared to be referring to her.

Jakhar was a frontrunner for the CM post after the Congress unseated Amarinder Singh last year.

But Ambika Soni told the party leadership that a Sikh should be made Punjab chief minister, possibly scuttling Jakhar's chances.

Channi then became the first Dalit CM of the state, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

The Congress, however, faced a rout, winning just 18 seats.

The Aam Aadmi Party won 92 of the 117 seats.

Jakhar told PTI that the perception that Channi was trying to create about his “humble background” was shattered after the alleged recovery of cash from his nephew's premises in an Enforcement Department raid.

"We cannot fight corruption with corruption," he said.

He questioned why Channi wasn't sent to Uttar Pradesh to campaign if he was an “asset' to the party.

The Congress got just two seats in UP.

"Accept the truth. There is a problem and you promoted him and now you are trying to give him a clean chit,” he said, apparently targeting Soni as well as the top leadership of the party.

Jakhar said that he had once told party leader Rahul Gandhi that he did not accept Channi as his leader.

On Monday, Amarinder Singh, who left the Congress after being ousted as Punjab CM, also slammed the party high command.

He said the Gandhis were entirely to blame for their party's defeat.

Last month, Jakhar had claimed that 42 Congress MLAs wanted him to be the chief minister of the state after the unceremonious exit of Amarinder Singh.

Holding the Gandhis responsible, former CM Amarinder hit out at the CWC for trying to put the blame on him instead of gracefully admitting their own blunders.

“Congress has not only lost in Punjab but also in UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. The fact is that the people across the country have lost faith in the leadership of the Gandhis,’’ he said.

He pointed out that many senior leaders have blamed infighting in the state unit and Sidhu’s “anti-party” statements for Congress’ abysmal performance.

Amarinder said the party was comfortably placed in the state until he was sacked to “favour certain sycophants”.

The party dug its own grave in the state the day it decided to back an “unstable” and “pompous” person like Sidhu, and named a corrupt man like Channi as CM a few months before the polls, he alleged.

After his ouster as CM last year, Amarinder Singh left the Congress and floated his own Punjab Lok Congress.

He slammed the CWC for trying to put the blame for the Congress defeat in Punjab on him instead of "gracefully admitting" their "own blunders".

"The Congress has not only lost in Punjab but also in UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur and the Gandhis are entirely to blame for the party's shameful defeat," he said.

"People across the country had lost faith in the leadership of the Gandhis," he said, referring to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

In the just-ended assembly polls, the Congress got just 18 seats, and the Aam Aadmi Party romped home with 92 in a House of 117.

Amarinder Singh claimed several senior leaders within the party were blaming the infighting in Punjab Congress and the "anti-party" statements of Navjot Sidhu for its bad performance in the state.

"The party had dug its own grave in the border state the day they decided to back an unstable and pompous person like Navjot Sidhu, and naming a corrupt man like Charanjit Singh Channi as chief minister just months before the polls," he said in a statement here.

The CWC leaders who were claiming that there was strong “anti-incumbency” against his government had conveniently forgotten that he had won every election for the party since 2017, including the civic bodies polls in February 2021, just seven months before his unceremonious removal, Singh said.

"These leaders are just sycophants who are trying to shield the family by shifting blame and closing their eyes to the writing on the wall," he said.

He claimed the Congress had no future under the present set-up.

Singh said the real reason for the defeat in Punjab was the party high command first favouring and then failing to rein in people like Navjot Sidhu, "who indulged in tarnishing the image of the party for their own personal gains".

"In their efforts to discredit me, the party high command joined hands with Navjot and others, and in the process ended up discrediting the party totally."

Singh said though he did not owe any explanation to the CWC or the Congress, he had chosen to react to the comments of these leaders just to clarify his position to the people of Punjab, to whom he still felt accountable.

Amarinder Singh was made to resign as the CM last September following a bitter feud between him and Navjot Sidhu.

In the 2022 polls, Singh's new party failed to win any seat.

Former Deputy CM Sukhjinder Randhawa too hit out at Sidhu. “There was indiscipline and the high command didn’t control it. Rahul Gandhi should have immediately taken action against those indulging in indiscipline.”

(With PTI Inputs)


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