Sidhu has the last laugh when Channi gives in during AG and DGP removals
Chandigarh: Punjab Congress Chairman Navjot Singh Sidhu got the party back under control when Prime Minister Charanjit Singh Channi gave in to Sidhu’s request on Tuesday and accepted the resignation of Advocate General APS Deol.
Channi also announced that the current State Director General of Police, IPS Sahota, whom Sidhu also did not want, will be replaced as UPSC’s select group of officers is expected shortly.
Since Channi’s decisions to appoint Deol and Sahota had become a major point of contention between him and Sidhu, the political message about the latest development is very clear. It is Sidhu who has emerged stronger from his week-long feud with the prime minister.
While Sidhu claimed that his struggle with Channi was to save Punjab’s lost pride, many saw it as an extension of his political ambitions for supremacy in state unity.
Sidhu, who lost the post of prime minister to Channi after the Gandhi siblings dethroned Amarinder Singh in September this year, has not allowed the Channi government to function smoothly since it took office almost two months ago.
The chief of Punjab Congress made Channi’s selection of Deol and Sahota a major problem by claiming that these two officials were obstructing justice in sacrilege cases, which gave Congress its biggest victory in the 2017 general election.
Sahota, Sidhu said repeatedly, had a dubious role in investigating sacrilege cases and even gave then-Deputy Prime Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal clean pieces of paper.
Deol, alleged Sidhu, was an attorney for former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and helped him obtain lump sum bail in cases where police fired on Sikh Sangat, who protested sacrilege incidents in 2015.
During a press conference on Monday, Sidhu Channi even gave a “final warning” asking him to choose either Sidhu or the “compromised” officers.
Political commentator Harjeshwar Pal Singh said after Deol cracked down on Sidhu, it was believed that Chani was persistent and unwilling to blink at what Sidhu asked for.
He said it appeared that Sidhu’s position in Congress had become untenable. “But today’s political developments have changed the political narrative. It is Sidhu who cemented his position both within the party and in the government when Channi was forced to replace both Deol and Sahota, ”said Harjeshwar.
Second, Sidhu’s public image will also improve as Channi was forced to reverse his decision to appoint these officials after Sidhu linked them to the sacrilege issue, which remains an emotional issue in Punjab.
However, according to Harjeshwar, the internal conflicts in Congress are far from over. A major feud is expected within the party once the ticket distribution process begins, he added.
Many believe that after the AG and DGP matter, Sidhu Channi will most likely move on to sacrilege and drugs next.
Sidhu questioned Channi during a media conversation last Friday about not doing enough for justice in drug and sacrilege cases in the last 50 days of his new government.
Sidhu knows that these two issues are still important from the voters’ point of view. Dethroning Amarinder alone will not help the party regain people’s trust. He can only strengthen the party image and his own election prospects if the Channi government takes decisive steps in the coming days.
Channi continues with populist steps
On the other hand, Channi is continuing the populist steps to polish up his political image and at the same time counteract Sidhu.
Channi on Tuesday approved Punjab State’s Sand and Gravel Extraction Policy for 2021 to provide sand and gravel nationwide for rupees 5.50 per square foot, up from rupees 9 per square foot previously. In addition, the license rate for common clay and earth has been reduced from 10 rupees per ton to 2.5 rupees per ton.
Channi said the latest policy will drastically decrease the amount of sand and gravel in the state and benefit consumers as a whole. He also announced that a dedicated toll-free number will be made available to consumers to register their tariff complaints in case they are ever charged more than prescribed
He also decided to legalize 36,000 contract employees. “A related law will be presented during the Vidhan Sabha meeting,” he told the media after the cabinet meeting
The minimum wage for unskilled workers will be increased with effect from March 1, 2020, he also said. Channi had previously reduced its electricity consumption.
Senior journalist Jagtar Singh said Channi’s overall approach is currently people-centered. But it goes without saying that the parliamentary elections are coming soon and he does not want to be seen as a weak leader in front of Sidhu.
“Both Amarinder Singh and Sukhbir used to be aloof. The fact that he is approachable and that his body language is not of arrogant leader adds to his popularity, ”he adds