After much huffing and puffing, Navjot Singh Sidhu has managed to become ‘President’ of the Punjab unit of the Congress Party, reportedly at the insistence of Priyanka Gandhi. It is being touted as a ‘victory’ of youth (comparatively speaking) over the intractable old guard, indicating thereby incumbent Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The spin doctors that can’t see wrong in anything that the Gandhi family does have described it as ‘Sonia Gandhi putting the CM in his place’ and sending a message to assertive satraps elsewhere. Rajasthan CM Gehlot is expected to beware, now, as Sachin Pilot has been on the prowl for some time.
As stated earlier in these columns, it is not just about giving aspiring young politicians a bigger role when it comes to Punjab. It is a very sensitive state to manage, where a very clear balance has to be maintained between national security and the chaos of democracy. None other than the Gandhi family has paid the price for misjudgment on the part of a far more consummate politician than the present lot. The fact that Sidhu carried out his personal campaign regardless of the political message sent out indicates he lacks, both, the maturity and the sense of responsibility to be running things in Punjab. Perhaps, the simultaneous appointment of four ‘working presidents’ is an attempt to keep him on a short leash. How that works will become known in the days to come.
Amarinder Singh, to say the least, is not amused. He is demanding an apology from Sidhu for his derogatory tweets and interviews before agreeing to meet him. Having got what he wants, Sidhu may well offer one – he has eaten crow before – but it is unlikely to settle the matter.
The Congress high command may also have been influenced by the fact that, given similar differences with the Chief Minister, many powerful leaders of the party defected to the BJP in Uttarakhand. It is an irony that the very same Harish Rawat had been made the high command intermediary between Amarinder and Navjot. It is not know whether it was his diplomacy that worked or Sidhu’s raising the stakes by hinting at a revolt by gathering Ministers and MLAs around him. The ball is now in Amarinder’s court – whether he will take the humiliation lying down or muster his own forces. There is certainly more to unfold in the state before the voters choose which party to back in the coming elections.