The appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as President of the Punjab unit of the Congress seems now to have been surrender rather than the compromise it was made out to be. The presiding Gandhi family is believed to have forced Sidhu on Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on the advice of Party General Secretary in charge of the state, Harish Rawat. Sidhu’s rising narcissism was ignored. Now his ‘advisers’, Dr Pyare Lal Garg and Malwinder Singh Mali have greatly embarrassed the party with their statements on Kashmir and Pakistan. Unbelievably, for a party that so strongly stands by the Gandhi family, it must be really difficult to swallow the kind of disparagement of Indira Gandhi by Mali done by posting a sketch of her with a gun and skulls, recalling the ‘killing of Sikhs’ during her time.
Sidhu has an inflated opinion of himself as a statesman, believing strangely that his intervention (and embrace of Pakistani Army Chief General Bajwa) led to establishing of the Kartarpur Corridor. He is being taken down the garden path by the Pakistani Establishment into thinking that Imran Khan has special respect for him. In the troubled politics of Punjab, there is a dangerous extremist stream that needs to be dried up, instead of being encouraged by pandering to it. Sidhu is doing exactly that to create trouble for the Chief Minister, who has a much better understanding of the dangers that exist. Now, Congress MP Manish Tiwari has also lambasted Sidhu and his advisers for their irresponsible nonsense. His appeal to General Secretary Rawat will go unheard, though, because the latter is busy politicking in Uttarakhand.
Leaving aside the politics, responsible leaders understand the need for putting the nation ‘first, always and every time’. Sidhu’s act of ‘summoning’ his advisors does not send the necessary clear signal – it just indicates he will try only to protect his position. All of this does not augur well for the future politics of the state, as there are enough trouble makers whose communal politics and separatist goals continue to stoke latent extremism. Sadly, with all these divisions, it does not seem that the voters will have the alternative to make decisive choices on nationalist lines. As in the case of Sidhu, it is difficult to gauge how ‘charismatic’ candidates will actually behave when voted to office. It is a mess, but the indecisive Congress leadership is unlikely to clear it up in the foreseeable future.