Ploy to diminish Amarinder Singh will have consequences

Perhaps that ability to develop a bigger persona than the Gandhis had to be crushed, so maverick Sidhu came in handy for the demolition job.

Published: 19th July 2021 07:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th July 2021 07:11 AM   |  A+A-

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh (File Photo | PTI)

Even before he had been officially anointed the new Punjab president of the Congress, Navjot Singh Sidhu had started calling on  party veterans to seek their blessings, indicating his promotion was a done deal. The decision to elevate and position him against popular Chief Minister Amarinder Singh barely eight months before the state polls shows how politics ought not to be done from Delhi. Amarinder is perhaps the only party leader in any state who could win elections on his own standing. This was why his name did the rounds earlier for national Congress president when Rahul advised the party to look outside the Gandhi family for leadership. Perhaps that ability to develop a bigger persona than the Gandhis had to be crushed, so maverick Sidhu came in handy for the demolition job.

But such machinations could easily backfire. Remember, Rajiv Gandhi’s humiliation of Anjaiah by sacking him as Andhra CM led to the Congress losing the state and the emergence of the TDP as an alternative powerhouse. Though the Andhra and Punjab situations are not similar as of now, the Amarinder camp could spin it as humiliation by a disconnected high command, if he doesn’t get a decisive say in selecting candidates for the Assembly elections. Even if he doesn’t, what would stop an ambitious opposition party like the AAP to weaponise the narrative? It was Amarinder who stopped the AAP’s tilt at power the last time around; the CM may not have the same drive to do an encore after the creation of an alternative power centre. To be fair, age is not on Amarinder’s side. He is already 79, one reason why the Gandhis see Sidhu as the future of the party in Punjab. But the generational gap in leadership ought to have been addressed years ago. Look at it differently and age gets translated into hands-on experience in leading a troubled state.

Sidhu lit into Amarinder’s perceived proximity to the Badals and mishandling of issues like sacrilege and power purchase agreements to diminish him. Whatever somersault Sidhu now does to paper over mutual differences, the fact remains that the Congress messed up big time in a strategically important state where it was sure of retaining power till about a few months ago.


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