Navjot Singh Sidhu as Punjab PCC chief: A dicey choice for the Congress
New Delhi, July 19:The Congress high command has not erred on the side of caution in appointing Navjot Singh Sidhu as its Punjab unit president, ignoring Capt Amarinder Singh’s objections. It is a deliberate, well-thought-out decision after weeks of consultations among stakeholders. Sonia Gandhi has, however, played a gamble. Clearly, she favored keeping an alternative face for the CM’s post in the state scheduled to go for the assembly polls next year just in case the Captain’s image suffered any setback. The people of Punjab are clever enough to see this.
But is Sidhu that indispensable? Opinions vary wildly. The mercurial cricketer—turned—politician joined the Congress party not long ago, having been disillusioned with BJP. Within less than two years, he showed the same streak. He fought with the CM, Captain Amarinder Singh, over power-sharing. After a running battle between the two, Punjab was agog with speculation that Sidhu was planning to cross over to the Aam Aadmi Party. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had obliquely praised Sidhu on occasions. What lent credence to the rumor was AAP’s desperate attempt to be a serious contender for power in Punjab where it was reportedly planning to project Sidhu as its Chief Ministerial candidate. Sidhu apparently encashed this situation when he met Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi recently. Sonia Gandhi, it appears, listened to their voice while taking the final call on Sidhu.
Sidhu’s appointment has, for now, divided the Punjab Congress. The Captain is seething with anger. His demand for regret from Sidhu for his alleged anti-CM posts in social media recently has so far gone into deaf years. If the Congress leadership thinks that the issue will die down in course of time, it may be mistaken. Sidhu is a divisive figure, unlike the Captain. The CM has shown demonstrably several times in the past that he is capable of sailing through a rough patch. He has his own share of mistakes, though. For example, he has stuck to his positions several times annoying Rahul Gandhi when the latter was the party President, giving an impression in Congress circles that the Captain cannot be bossed over.
Given Punjab’s political landscape at present, the Congress needs a strong, powerful and popular leader to retain power in the forthcoming election. Taking the farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s agriculture laws, the Akali Dal appears to be making inroads. The party has shown a strong anti-BJP, anti-Centre stance drawing good support from the farming community. The Captain has prevaricated somewhat on the issue. He seems to have lost an edge. His popularity, therefore, has become a question mark, according to some Congress leaders from the state. It is to be seen if Sidhu in his new role succeeds in reversing the situation. Sidhu has entered uncharted territory. His personal popularity among a section of people, especially youth, is never in doubt. But that was away from hard-core politics. As Congress PCC chief, he will be tested for his ability to manage things politically. He will have to galvanize party cadres and others on the eve of the assembly elections. The Captain has been an invaluable asset, tested and proven. Unless Sidhu and Captain Amarinder Singh pull together, the problems will only multiply. It is a test for the high command as well—in its ability to make the two to tango.
Navjot Singh Sidhu / Navjot Singh Sidhu / Navjot Singh Sidhu
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