Does Sidhu have an eye on CM’s post?

By Vinod Kumar Shukla- 26 Jul 2021


New Delhi (26.07.2021): Is it simply an ego tussle between Punjab chief minister Capt Amrinder Singh and cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu or something more in Punjab? It appears to be something more than what is apparent i.e.  just ego clashes of the two giant personalities of Punjab politics. Then what is it? Despite the fact that the Central leadership conceded demands of Sidhu by appointing him president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, daggers are still drawn between the two leaders. It clearly indicates that the post of chief minister at stake and post of party chief is just a ladder.

Sidhu had joined the Congress leaving the BJP after representing Amritsar in the Lok Sabha for two terms. He was also seen hobnobbing with Aam Aadmi Party, still he was given the responsibility of state party chief replacing Sunil Jakhar – son of late Dalit Congress leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar. Despite Sidhu being made state party chief, his behaviour during some of the party programmes had certainly crossed the limit of dissent and reached to the limits of indiscipline yet he is being cajoled. So much so that state party in-charge Harish Rawat was forced to request Priyanka Gandhi to intervene on certain issues as he was not ready to listen to anyone except Gandhies. However, such behaviours invite disciplinary action otherwise. Everyone knows that Sidhu has the backing of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi who announced in the media that differences in the Punjab Congress have been ironed out and the party would collectively contest the 2022 Assembly elections.

But what is intriguing amidst all these developments is that the Punjab chief minister is continuously neglected by the Congress top brass including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and the most important being that despite his opposition Sidhu was appointed the state Congress chief. This has sent a clear message in the state Congress that Sidhu is around with the blessings of the Central leadership. So, does the central leadership have any plan for generational shift in the organisation? Do they have any plans to consider Sidhu as the next chief minister of Punjab? There is a very strong possibility of this happening in the state. Sidhu appears to be nurturing this dream from long time.

Capt Amrinder Singh is 79-year-old at the moment, who was brought to Punjab politics by Sidhu’s father, and by the time next Assembly takes place in 2022, he will be 80. So, the Congress might be looking for a younger leader to take the baton from him. Sidhu being young, popular and aggressive fits the bill for the Congress. If elections are contested under the presidentship of Sidhu, replacing Amrinder Singh will be a logical generational transformation. Sidhu constantly attacking the chief minister on some corruption and sentimental issues will help the party to retain those voters which might not vote for the Congress due to anti-incumbency. Sidhu’s attack on the CM is giving them the hope that there might be a possibility of change in the leadership and that would address the issues raised by Sidhu which should actually have been raised by the Opposition. This will blunt the anti-incumbency in the state for the Congress.

Sidhu has always been the bitter critic of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), so voters that are angry with SAD might vote for the Congress as they know that the BJP does not stand a chance in the state without its alliance with SAD. However, the BJP with the help of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat – an affiliate organization of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- is trying to make dent into the SAD vote bank but this is sure that it would certainly be not enough for the BJP to emerge as single largest party in the state. SAD and Bahujan Samaj Party alliance is not time tested and most of the Dalit Sikh have always been voting SAD for long. The BSP is not a force to reckon with in Punjab despite the fact that Punjab has the highest Scheduled Caste population at 31.94 per cent as per 2011 census.

No other political party except the Congress in the state appears to have the support base to catapult it to the power corridors in Chandigarh. Capt Amrinder Singh knows very well that there is no scope for above 75 leaders in the BJP. So, he will have to remain in the Congress swallowing bitter pills. In such a situation, the pressure tactics of Sidhu may yield good results for him including the coveted post of Punjab chief minister coming to his lap.

(By Vinod Kumar Shukla)


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