Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday summoned both his newly appointed advisors, Malwinder Singh Mali and Pyare Lal Garg, to his Patiala residence following a controversy over their recent comments on sensitive issues like Pakistan and Kashmir and a controversial sketch of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi posted by one of them on social media.
Besides leaving the Congress leadership red-faced, the comments and posts made on social media platforms have provided adequate ammunition to leaders of Opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to hit out at the ruling camp in Punjab. Punjab is slated to see the next Assembly election early next year.
In a recent social media post, Mali had waded into the issue of revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Garg had recently questioned chief minister Amarinder Singh’s criticism of Pakistan stating it was was not in the interest of the state.
Mali had also posted a sketch of the late PM wherein she is seen standing near a heap of human skulls, holding a gun with a skull hanging on its muzzle.
Among Congress leaders who have reacted sharply to the controversy are Singh and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tiwari. The chief minister, who has been at loggerheads for long with Sidhu, has warned the duo against making “atrocious and ill-conceived” comments that were potentially dangerous to the peace and stability of the state and the country. He also called the statements “anti-national”.
Tiwari, who represents Anandpur Sahib in the Lok Sabha, wondered if such people have any right to live in the country. “Do such people even have the right to live in the country, forget about being in the party?” the senior party spokesperson was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Sharing a post on Twitter, he also urged Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat to introspect whether such individuals should remain a part of the grand old party. “I urge @harishrawatcmuk AICC Gen Secy I/C Punjab to seriously introspect that those who do not consider J&K to be a part of India & others who have ostensibly Pro Pakistan leanings should be a part of @INCPunjab. It mocks all those who shed blood for India,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Sambit Patra wanted to know whether Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had approved the appointments of Sidhu’s advisors. “Their comments are appalling and paint India in a bad picture. It shows the thought process of the party. Will Rahul Gandhi answer whether he appointed Sidhu’s advisors?” Patra said.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has sought an FIR against Mali. “Does he stand with forces that are working against the nation? Kashmir is an integral part of India. The police should, in fact, register an FIR against him,” he was quoted as saying in a report.
Another Akali leader Daljit Singh Cheema said it was none other than Sidhu who had hugged the Pakistan army chief and extended his friendship towards their prime minister when the two nations were not on particularly friendly terms. “When he is like that, why complain about advisors?” Cheema added.