If the buzz in the political circles is to be believed, then Navjot Singh Sidhu is set to be appointed as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief.
As per the truce agreement finalised by the party high command, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will continue as chief minister while Sidhu will replace Sunil Jakhar (an Amarinder loyalist) as the PCC president.
This ends months of friction between the two leaders ahead of the Punjab elections due next year. Sidhu has been very critical of the Amarinder administration and levelled serious charges against his government. Some other leaders like Pargat Singh and Pratap Singh Bajwa have also questioned Amarinder’s autocratic style.
The high command had appointed a three-member panel of Mallikarjun Kharge, Harish Rawat and Jai Prakash Agarwal to look into the dispute in Punjab.
The panel had proposed an 18-point agenda for the Punjab government to be carried out in the next few months. Amarinder and Sidhu had met the Gandhis a number of times to resolve differences.
Sidhu, the blue-eyed boy of Gandhis, demanded either deputy chief ministership or PCC chief position. Amarinder was not in favour of any of these and was at most willing to accommodate Sidhu as a Cabinet minister.
Sidhu, who had previously resigned from Amarinder Cabinet, was not enthused with this proposal.
The war of words between the two leaders had taken an ugly turn. Sidhu publicly criticized Amarinder and also sent feelers to the Aam Aadmi Party. The chief minister complained to Gandhis about Sidhu’s behaviour accusing him of indulging in anti-party activities.
However, Sidhu seems to have got what he wanted and emerged on top in this phase of duel with the chief minister.
This might further strain the relationship between the two and may make matters worse for the party. The two could face-off during ticket distribution.
This episode tells 5 things about the Gandhis and the Congress party.
1. Gandhis still the maai-baap of Congress
It shows that the Gandhi family still holds sway over the party organisation. Captain is the strongman of Punjab and is considered as one of the most popular CMs in the state ever, the main architect of the party's stupendous performance in 2017.
The Gandhis lately seem to be weakened by the losses and rebellion by G-23. However, this episode shows they still have hold over and control the party. Even a strong leader like Amarinder Singh had to accept their diktat.
2. Gandhis can’t tolerate strong regional satraps
Gandhis can’t stand strong regional satraps. They don’t allow powerful, popular regional leaders with mass support to flourish, lest they one day challenge their leadership. Mamata, Pawar and Jagan all had to leave the party and form their own outfits.
3. Gandhis encourage factionalism
Gandhis deliberately prop up factions in state units so that regional leaders keep engaged amongst themselves and don’t become threats.
In every state there is no consensus leader of the party. There are two to three factions in each state. They have fanned this rebellion to destabilise the Punjab government as Amarinder Singh supposedly doesn’t listen to them.
Gandhis have reduced an elected leader to a commoner by summoning him constantly to Delhi and humiliated Captain. This washing dirty linen in public doesn’t augur well for the party and could mar its prospects in the state where it appeared to have an edge a few months ago due to farmers' protest.
Gandhis have taken personal interest in this project and Rahul spoke to many MLAs to take their feedback.
4. Gandhis reward sycophancy
Unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party which rewards performance, Gandhis prop up sycophants and loyalists for top posts. Sidhu joined the Congress party barely a month before the state polls in 2017. He played no major role in the party's victory.
Neither has he proved that he possesses leadership qualities and can deliver the state to the party. In these five years he has been mostly absent from the scene or bickering against Amarinder Singh.
Rewarding an outsider before seeing tangible results is not the way BJP works. It has made leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma the chief minister of Assam and Jyotiraditya Scindia a Union Cabinet minister after they ensured that the BJP formed governments in Assam and Madhya Pradesh.
5. Gandhis are disconnected from reality and have poor judgement
The family is disconnected with grassroots politics of India and Punjab in this case. Sidhu is not a mass leader, they are backing the wrong horse. He is less popular than Amarinder Singh and doesn’t enjoy statewide support.
Even in the past, they have backed wrong leaders like in Andhra and Telangana. They have made wrong choices and once again are going to commit similar errors.
It remains to be seen whether Amarinder Singh will accept this decision of the High Command or not. Interesting times ahead...