Vote-catcher Navjot Singh Sidhu’s growing clout leaves Punjab CM Amarinder Singh on sticky wicket
Sidhu was a star campaigner for the Congress in the assembly elections and his political stock is likely to go up as he will matter more for the party in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Chandigarh: With the Lok Sabha polls just a few months away, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s growing political influence is all set to change power equations in the state, as he is the Congress's new vote-catcher.
The cold war between Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu is already out in the open. Amarinder had dubbed the Kartarpur corridor an ISI conspiracy and said Sidhu at times shoots before he thinks. Sidhu later called Rahul his captain in Hyderabad during the party’s campaign in Telangana. During his whirlwind tour, Sidhu’s catchline was, "Bad days are about to end, Rahul is going to be at the helm.”
While Amarinder did not campaign in any of the five states where elections were held, Sidhu was the star campaigner and his political stock is likely to go up as he will matter more in the scheme of things for the party in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Though he and his wife Navjot Kaur have challenged Amarinder's leadership, Sidhu has reportedly been told by the party high command to keep a low profile as of now, said sources.
There is also talk of a cabinet reshuffle in Punjab in the coming days. The issue was discussed between Amarinder and Congress President Rahul Gandhi some time ago as the portfolio of Sidhu needed to be changed but the Chief Minister was in no mood to do so.
As of now, Amarinder has maintained a distance from the party high command. He did not attend the relaunch function of 'Navjivan', which is the Hindi edition of the National Herald newspaper owned by the Congress, on Monday in Mohali as he was unwell and had been advised rest at home for 48 hours by doctors at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research.
Sidhu also did not attend the function, saying he was unwell as the 17-day hectic campaigning had hurt his vocal cords but on Tuesday he was in Delhi at the party headquarters and his proximity to the Gandhis adds to his new-found clout within the party, something which would make the Amarinder camp uneasy. But both have yet to call a truce.
There is also the expectation of a Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) revamp as party legislators and leaders are hoping the committee has a greater role in deciding political appointments, so far largely being given to retired bureaucrats.
Besides the state level changes, there will be restructuring of the district units too. Presidents of the 28 district units might be replaced as it is part of PPCC’s restructuring plan. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, efforts are likely to be made to accommodate loyalists of various pressure groups, including those supported by senior leaders Partap Singh Bajwa and Ambika Soni.