JALANDHAR/AMRITSAR: With no full stop to ongoing simmering rivalry — the one that has derailed the Grand Old Party’s campaign in the border state — between Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and incumbent CM Charanjit Channi, Rahul Gandhi said his party would soon decide on the face for party’s 2022 elections.
His comments have only stoked tension in both camps as he gave a cryptic statement on declaration of CM face by party’s workers.
“Both gave me some reassurance. Now, of course, two people cannot lead. Only one gets to lead the state. Both Sidhu and Channi told me that whosoever is chosen to lead, the other will extend the support. Both stand by the Congress party I know,” said Rahul at a rally in Jalandhar.
Before Rahul spoke, Channi asked Sidhu, Ludhiana MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Jalandhar Cantonment MLA Pargat Singh to join him at the stage.
“People are saying there’s a fight. I will give a sacrifice. I will stand by the Congress party always,” Channi dropped a broad hint that he may give up his bid to be CM face.
Rahul’s indication of one-CM face may come as a relief in the embattled party that is facing humiliation over Rs 10-crore recovery of hard cash from Channi’s nephew Bhupinder Singh alias Honey amid raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Channi is under huge pressure after CCTV footage had showed gunmen and vehicles given to his nephew Honey.
Two days ago, Honey did not appear before the ED on Monday on the ground that he was suffering from COVID 19.
“Today, our leader Rahul Gandhi took along…..” Channi later told reporters in Amritsar and then left.
The show of unity by Congress was a throwback to the feud in 2016 when Gandhi had tried to settle differences between Pratap Bajwa and Capt Amarinder Singh ahead of 2017 polls. Amarinder had refused to work under Bajwa till Congress replaced him.
However, many in the Congress say that Bajwa could be a dark horse in 2022 race as well, considering his seniority, sincerity and loyalty in the party.
“Bajwa remains one of the fiercest loyal of Congress and Gandhis and can be the unanimous choice. He is the most senior among them all and he has chosen to again fight assembly polls after being a Rajya Sabha MP where he worked closely with Rahul in the Parliament,” said a top Congress leader.
Bajwa’s brother Fateh has revolted against him and is fighting on a BJP ticket from the neighbouring Batala.
“That shows Pratap’s commitment. He single handedly had set the foundation for drug expose against Badals and fougth tooth and nail against Akali Dal in 2013 to 2015,” said the leader.
Earlier, Rahul said, “Our past is that several hands Congress workers have shed their blood. I have learnt a lot from you all and from Manmohan Singh”.