Kolkata: He may be touching 80 and finds himself out of favour, but if you thought former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh was fighting for a lost cause, you probably got the calculations wrong. All said and done, Singh’s fulminations are causing the Congress party in the state, irreparable damage with the Aam Admi Party (AAP) smelling an opportunity to make inroads ahead of the polls due next year.
But isn’t the Congress High Command to be held responsible for pushing the state unit on such a frivolous track? Let’s analyse.
Miffed and humiliated at the treatment meted out to him, Singh on Wednesday, went ballistic against his bete noire Punjab Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu stating he was ready for any sacrifice to save the state from such a dangerous man (Sidhu). And he even went to the extent of saying he would not hesitate to pit a strong candidate against the former cricketer, if needed.
“I would fight Navjot Singh Sidhu’s elevation to Punjab chief ministership tooth and nail and am ready to make any sacrifice to save the country from such a dangerous man,” he was quoted in the media.
Singh also took objection to Sidhu’s role as a Super CM relegating the man-in-charge, Charanjit Singh Channi to the background.
If we are to assess Singh’s diatribes against Sidhu, they only exacerbate the ruckus the Congress party finds itself submerged in. If Singh’s detractors were to write him off, they could be digging their own grave since his experience counts and cannot be renounced.
At the same time, a broken house does not augur well for Congress which is at a loss to dissuade senior leaders from indulging in internal bickerings.
A senior Punjab-based journalist points out that Singh was a liability for the party having failed to implement the 18-point agenda. If that is so, were the party bigwigs snoring all this while? Even the most menacing of Singh’s critics, deep down, wouldn’t approve of the manner of his exit even if they are a happier lot at his ‘ouster.’ Arguably the tallest leader in Punjab with huge national credibility, Singh didn’t deserve such an unceremonious adieu.
The former CM added he wanted to resign three months ago but relented on Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s insistence. Now, was Sonia expecting a miracle that would have saved Captain’s skin when her children were bent on his ouster?
“If she had called me and asked me to step down, I’d have. As a soldier, I know how to do my task and leave once called back,” Singh said.
Blame it on Sonia’s lack of prescience that is adding to fissures within the party in Punjab much to the delight of the Opposition parties especially AAP.
Over-reliance on Rahul and Priyanka seems to be yielding no results as the party sinks deeper into a cataclysm. Singh however holds nothing against the Gandhi siblings. “Priyanka and Rahul are like my children…this should not have ended like this. I am hurt. They were quite inexperienced and their advisers were clearly misguiding them,” came Singh’s view from his office.
But this dilly-dallying has upped the consternation with Sonia forced to give into his kids’ whims and fancies despite being the party interim chief. And this is where the confusion triggers. Party men are flummoxed oblivious to whom to report. Similarly, the old guard and the Gandhi siblings are not on the same page that is only precipitating the state of shambles, the party is in.
The rumblings in Punjab would surely have an impact on other Congress-ruled states like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where intra-party squabble is rampant. Sidhu’s ‘counterpart’ in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot is getting impatient and wants his share of the pie in the Ashok Gehlot government. In Chhattisgarh, CM Bhupesh Baghel is reportedly at loggerheads with his health minister TS Singh Deo who wants the High Command to adhere to the rotation policy in appointing chief ministers.
The Gandhis’ redundant plan of calling warring leaders to New Delhi to broker truce bears no fruit as is evident. In fact, the party is losing steam at every step and its dream of leading a National Front against the BJP is on the cusp of biting the dust. A party that has an abysmal record when it comes to setting its own house in order, cannot show the gumption to challenge a much more formidable force on a bigger canvas.
The Gandhis, relieved at having belled the cat in Punjab, are cooling their heels holidaying in Himachal Pradesh. Little do they know, what awaits them as they descend back to the plains.