Opinion

Will Navjot Singh Sidhu Swing Or Sink Congress Fortunes In 2022 Punjab Assembly Polls?

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Like the Congress party tradition yet again 10 Janpath had the final say on the in-fighting in the Punjab Unit of the Congress. Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi’s move to appoint former cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as PCC chief has created the hype for the Punjab assembly polls next year.

The appointment of Sidhu though was not easy as Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh , miffed with Sidhu’s comments on him and his government , wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi warning of a split in the party if Sidhu is elevated . It took lot of persuasion by AICC observer Harish Rawat to get the Chief Minister on board with a statement after meeting the embattled CM saying anything decided by Congress president would be acceptable to him.

Whether this appointment of Sidhu puts an end to the in- fighting within the Punjab Congress remains to be seen. The last thing the Congress would want is to go the polls next year with a divided house. In-fighting has been the bane of the Congress in recent times off- late. It apparently as many political pundits said lost the Kerala assembly in 2021 due to groupism in the party. Earlier in-fighting had cost the party dearly in Assam and Madhya Pradesh . Now BJP Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma fell out with then Congress stalwart late Tarun Gogoi in 2016 over the elevation of the Gogoi’s son Gaurav. Sarma left the party and the rest is history.

In Madhya Pradesh too in 2018 despite winning the elections the then CM Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh ganged up to sideline Jyotiraditya Scindia . Scindia had his revenge though, quitting the party with 21 of his loyal MLA’s delivered the state to the BJP under Shivraj Singh Chouhan . And the BJP top brass with prime Minister Narendra Modi rewarded the Scindia scion with a plum Union Cabinet berth and a high profile Civili Aviation ministry . Ironically the same ministry at one point of time 30 years back was held by his late father and senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia in the then Prime Minister late PV Narasimha Rao government.

Why political  analysts are wary of Sidhu’s elevation  in Punjab because relation between incumbent Chief Minister and PCC chief has not been easy one for the Congress. Rajasthan is a classic example. Veteran leader  and current CM Ashok Gehlot did not see eye to eye with PCC chief Sachin Pilot. After Pilot rebelled, the wily Gehlot  outwitted Pilot and saw Sachin lose his twin posts in the government – Deputy Chief Minister and PCC chief. Pilot is still now miffed and awaiting the Congress party’s promise of meeting his wishes he had proposed .  The cold vibes continue between Gehlot and Pilot thereby questioning the stability of the government in the state.

As he dons his new role as PCC chief Sidhu was quoted as saying , Will work along every member of Congress family in Punjab to fulfil mission of ‘Jittega Punjab’ as humble party worker, to give power of people back to people through Punjab Model &High Command’s 18 point agenda. My journey has just begun.

Lastly, Sidhu’s appointment though should be seen on two counts. One Congress now needs a young leader to present perspective to  the people. The old guard has to move away, remember Capt Amarinder Singh is (79), Sidhu is ( 57) . Sidhu  is a crowd puller with his oratory skills .  If Congress wins Punjab next year he could well aspire / hypothetical now to be a potential Chief Minister.

His road to CM chair will not be easy though . Sidhu now has to rally the party as united one and take on the challenge posed by Akalis who had already stitched an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP and the new entrant Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP. So the opposition is off the block while Congress battles within. As an opener in his cricketing heydays, Sidhu hammered spinners with ease by  hitting them out of the ground for six. Congress will need  all those sixes in the polls next year if they are to retain power. So Sherry clearly has his task cut out .

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