Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief (PPCC) Navjot Singh Sidhu is embroiled in an unsavoury political row after two of his advisers, Balwinder Singh Mali and Pyarelal Garg, made remarks on Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir.
The remarks made by Navjot Singh Sidhu's advisers have not gone down well with party's top leadership in Delhi, reported News18. Sources told the news portal that Congress' top leadership is upset with Sidhu and his advisers for the comments, which will only strengthen the BJP’s resolve to polarise in Uttar Pradesh.
The controversy comes just ahead of the critical Uttar Pradesh elections, where the Congress is fighting to make its presence felt.
Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu's two advisers came under severe attack from the Opposition and within the party on Monday for their recent controversial remarks on Kashmir and Pakistan, with Congress MP Manish Tewari asking if such people should be kept in the party.
Amid mounting pressure, Sidhu met the two advisers at his Patiala residence on Monday, but it was not immediately known what was discussed or decided there.
Tewari's open criticism came a day after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asked Sidhu to "rein in" his advisers and described their remarks as atrocious and ill-conceived comments that were potentially dangerous to the peace and stability of the state and the country.
In a tweet, Tewari said, "I urge Harish Rawat, AICC Gen Secy in-charge Punjab to seriously introspect that those who do not consider J&K to be a part of India and others who have ostensibly Pro-Pakistan leanings should be a part of Punjab Congress." He said such people mock all those who have shed blood for India.
The opposition BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the AAP seized on the controversy to target the Congress, with just months to go for assembly elections in Punjab.
The opposition attacked the Congress leadership to clear their stand on the "anti-India propaganda" and alleged that such controversial statements by Sidhu's advisers were a "well thought-out" move to divert people's attention from the unfulfilled promises of the party.
Though Sidhu remained mum on the controversy, his advisers Malvinder Singh Mali and Pyare Lal Garg spoke to the media after their meeting in Patiala.
"Whatever I had to say, it is on social media and that is final," Mali said after meeting Sidhu.
In a recent social media post, Mali, a former government teacher and political analyst, had waded into the issue of revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
He had said if Kashmir was a part of India, then what was the need to have Articles 370 and 35A. He had also said, "Kashmir is a country of Kashmiri people." Mali had also reportedly made some comments over the capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Garg, a former registrar of Baba Farid University of Health and Sciences, had reportedly questioned the chief minister's criticism of Pakistan.
Chief Minister Singh has described the remarks by Sidhu's advisers as atrocious and ill-conceived comments that were potentially dangerous to the peace and stability of the state and the country.
The Punjab CM also asked Sidhu to "rein in" his advisers, who he said, should stick to giving advice to the PPCC president and not speak on matters "of which they clearly had little or no knowledge and had no understanding of the implications of their comments".
The BJP hit out at the Congress over the advisers' controversial comments and sought the response of its leader Rahul Gandhi.
Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri also posted on Twitter a November, 2019 speech of Sidhu in which he had showered praise on Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan during the opening ceremony of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and questioned if his advisors have drawn inspiration from his comments.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "This is what the advisors of Punjab PCC President Sidhu opine about Pak & Kashmir: Pyare Lal Garg says: "Criticism of Pakistan is not in the interest of Punjab". Malwinder Mali says : Kashmir is a separate State and India is an illegal occupant. Rahul Gandhi any answers? Shame."
Puri said, "One wonders if Mr Sidhu's advisers who have now made astounding statements on Kashmir have drawn inspiration from the Japphi-Pappi speech at opening of Sri Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 9 Nov 2019 in which Mr Sidhu extolled the virtues of his friend PM Imran Khan." Talking to the media, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia demanded registration of a case of "treason" against Sidhu and his team.
(With inputs from PTI)
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