Sidhu’s revolt undermining Congress gain
of selecting a Dalit as Punjab CM

by K.S. Tomar

A maverick and unpredictable politician, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s
resignation from the post of Punjab Congress chief had put his mentors, Rahul-Priyanka duo, in an embarrassing and discomforting position. This may undermine the political gain of installing a Dalit leader, Charanjit Singh Channi, as chief minister, thereby humiliating the two time chief minister, Amrinder Singh who
has quit the Congress party.
Sidhu’s latest revolt is a culmination of several factors including Channi’s blunt refusal to be his yesman. The former cricket star
expected special weightage in ministry composition, in the
appointments of DGP and state advocate general, which was denied by CM as well as the high command. Sidhu was also upset over elevating Jat
leader, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, as deputy CM and  allocating him the key home portfolio. Sidhu’s staunch loyalists were kept out of the Cabinet at Rahul Gandhi’s instance.

The party High Command has also given a clear signal to declare
Channi as the face of the party in 2022 assembly polls along with Sidhu. That put paid to Sidhu’s long-cherished  dream of becoming state CM. The loss to an unassuming Dalit leader has not gone down well with
To resolve the crisis in Punjab, a 3-member coordination committee comprising the CM, state party chief and AICC in charge has been constituted to take crucial decisions in government, which may pacify Sidhu.  The committee is aimed at having better synergy between the government and the party. A truce formula worked out between Sidhu and Channi will require the approval of the cabinet, which aims to preserve and establish the supremacy of the chief minister.

In a related development, Amarinder Singh dropped a bombshell by announcing his decision to quit Congress because he was humiliated by the high command removing him unceremoniously. For now the former chief minister has ruled out his plan to join Bharatiya Janata Party, for fear of losing the support of farmers in Punjab who have been agitating for over one year against the repeal of three farm laws. He  may float a new party and contest assembly polls with an alliance
with BJP.  However, his experiment of forming Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic) from 1992 to 1998 was a failure and he re-joined Congress when Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the party.

Analysts opine that in case Amarinder Singh takes even 19-20 MLAs
with him, that may  pose a threat to the survival of the Channi government. But that will not be easy as those MLAs will face disqualification under the anti-defection law.

Interestingly, Sidhu had ditched BJP in 2016 by resigning from Rajya
Sabha. ‘Vajrapaat ho gaya’ (a thunderbolt has struck), said some
senior BJP leaders when he and wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a BJP MLA, quit the party. He formed a new outfit, ‘Aawaaz-e-Punjab’ before joining
Congress in 2017.
Sidhu’s mercurial nature was first noticed in his irrational
desertion of the Indian cricket team during the 1996 tour of England.
Former BCCI secretary Jaywant  Lele’s book in 2012 revealed that Sidhu was upset over his captain Mohammad Azharuddin’s use of a Hyderabadi term which he misinterpreted as foul. In reality the word just meant ‘Mother’s Dear Child’.

Observers feel that the Congress high command has yet to settle the issues of warring factions in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh state units, which might be an uphill task now when the Punjab fiasco has weakened its authority .

Tomar is a national columnist and political analyst based in Delhi

Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy PTI)

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