Kolkata: Navjot Singh Sidhu is on a rampage — buoyed by the confidence reposed in him by the Congress high command, the former cricketer-turned-lawmaker is in no mood to waste time.
Emboldened after the party top brass overlooked Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s objections to the former’s anointment as the chief of the state unit, Sidhu is leaving no stones unturned to prove his worth.
Be it travelling across the state to garner support or appointing his set of advisers (individuals most of whom are not in consonance with the Chief Minister) or explicitly hurling barbs at the state government’s alleged lackadaisical approach towards not bringing the culprits behind the sacrilege case to book or lambasting Singh’s softness for Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia whose name has cropped up in drug trafficking, Sidhu minces no words and action.
The man who was written off as a strokeless wonder during the initial days of his international career is not shaky to walk down the track and take the battle right into his enemy’s (read Singh) camp.
On paper, it may look to be a resurgent Congress under the stewardship of a dynamic party chief, but the cracks within the party in the state are only widening – a baleful signal that could have a cascading impact on the party’s prospects in the Assembly elections.
Yes, Sidhu is basking in the support of the Gandhis but the First Family is pampering a so-called unpredictable young Turk against a veteran politician – who has been a committed foot soldier of the party. Despite Singh’s request to Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi to rein Sidhu in and restrain him from not taking on the state government, Singh’s words have fallen on deaf ears.
Sidhu continues to be on a warpath apparently at the behest of his Delhi bosses. Now, this does not augur well for the party as it looks to retaining power. The tension in the air is palpable and the bickering is out in the open.
The attempt to display an “All is well” picture before Sidhu’s elevation ceremony has bitten the dust as there is not even an iota of initiative from either side to broker a truce. The CM being more astute, avoids malicious statements in the media or the social media but it is an open secret that he is peeved with Sidhu and the party high command as well.
With time, the Congress party is paralysed by such intra-party squabbles much to the liking of BJP, SAD and AAP. But the main opposition parties still haven’t been able to stifle the government as they themselves have too many discrepancies to iron out. Some SAD leaders are embroiled in graft cases and AAP hasn’t been able to emerge as a formidable force. The constant jumping ship factor is an aberration as well.
But if complacency beckons by the weak opposition, the Congress could draw its own nemesis. It is time to bury the hatchet and approach the polls with vigour and honesty. The time is rife to read the possible writings on the wall if the organisation is not revamped. Stern diktats to work together should immediately be conveyed or else time may run out.
As far as Sidhu is concerned, he would be digging his own grave if he takes his position for granted. Replacing Sunil Jakhar with Sidhu hasn’t gone down well with the former and there are too many leaders left sulking in Punjab. It’s bewildering that instead of steadying the ship, Sidhu, mollycoddled by Delhi, is obsessed with his personal ambitions with the party’s interests relegated to the background.
Sidhu has had his share of controversies too – his unflinching respect for Pakistan PM Imran Khan has cost him, dear. To compound his problems, one of his advisers Malwinder Singh Mali has sparked a row stating that “Going against the tenets of the UN resolutions, both India and Pakistan have illegally usurped the Kashmir territory.” Such flippancy can turn out to be a bane for both Sidhu and his party. Their rivals would lap up the ammunition to go hammer and tongs against the age-old party.
Singh on his part is maintaining a dignified silence. Deserted by poll strategist Prashant Kishor, Singh could be on the back foot, but to write him off would be a historical blunder. The former Army man has too much expertise up his sleeves to be mowed down. Captain as he is reverently called, certainly knows a trick or two to keep his bête noires at bay. But being the senior statesman, he should shun his ego and set the house in order even if it means sending feelers to his much-younger party colleague for a proper rapprochement. Let that hope not be wishful thinking!
Now the good news is that the warring leaders have decided to set up a strategic group for better coordination between the government and the party. It seems a start has been initiated!
We are watching!