The resolution in Punjab after Navjot Singh Sidhu’s resignation depends on the fate of three key appointments made by the new government — of Rana Gurjeet Singh as a Cabinet Minister, APS Deol as the Advocate General (AG) and Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota as the Director General of Police (DGP) of Punjab.
Sources said Sidhu wants the appointment of senior IPS officer of the 1986 batch, Sidharth Chattopadhyaya, as the DGP and senior lawyer DS Patwalia as the AG. He also wants Rana Gurjeet Singh, the MLA from Kapurthala, to be dropped as a Cabinet Minister. The decision on the DGP is still to be cleared by the UPSC but the Charanjit Singh Channi government has given additional charge of the post to Sahota. Chattopadhyaya will retire in March next year while 1988-batch Sahota retires next August.
Sidhu is upset with the appointment of APS Deol (left) as Advocate General (AG) and Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota as DGP of Punjab. (News18)
Sidhu’s charge against Sahota is that as in charge of the first Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Badal regime in 2015, he had allegedly given a clean chit to the Badals as well as Baba Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda in the sacrilege cases. The Sidhu camp says two youths were falsely arrested by this SIT and a foreign conspiracy was wrongly alleged. However, the Channi government argues that Sahota’s SIT functioned only for 20 days before CBI took over the matter and Sahota’s SIT never gave anyone a clean chit.
Sidhu’s objection against APS Deol as the AG is that he has been the counsel for former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and has secured bail for him in various cases. Saini is also under the scanner in the police firing cases of Behbal Kalan that followed after the sacrilege cases. Sidhu, in fact, had been pitching for senior lawyer Patwalia as the AG. Sidhu is asking how an advocate who represented Saini will possibly prosecute him now. However, the Channi government has argued that it is going to appoint a special public prosecutor with a team of 10 lawyers to look at “important cases” and hence there should be no worry.
Rana Gurjeet Singh does not only hold electoral significance in Doaba region but is also viewed as someone who can manage election funding after Captain’s exit. (PTI File)
Sources, however, say the Channi government could change its choices of DGP and AG as the “CM was flexible and respects Sidhu’s point of view”. However, the trickiest for Channi would be to tackle Sidhu’s demand of removing Rana Gurjeet Singh from the Cabinet. Singh does not only hold electoral significance for the party in the Doaba region but is also viewed as someone who can manage election funding for the party after the exit of Captain Amarinder Singh. Sidhu says Singh’s removal from the Cabinet in 2018 was due to allegations of his involvement with sand mining mafia and his inclusion compromises the non-corruption stance taken by Sidhu.
What has also irked Sidhu is the assignment of the home portfolio to Deputy CM Sukhjinder Randhawa and the growing closeness of CM Channi with state finance minister Manpreet Badal, with the CM seeking Manpreet’s counsel on most issues instead of that of Sidhu. But the Congress government is not prepared to weaken the chief minister in any way by indulging with Sidhu on these points as the latter has not raised them officially so far. Manpreet Badal had a key role to play in the appointment of Channi as the chief minister.