Deciphering the confusion of the Punjab Congress: why did Sidhu leave in anger?
Sidhu’s resignation as Punjab unit leader threatens to push Congress deeper into the abyss of internal strife, just four months away from state assembly elections
For the Crisis Congress Party in Punjab, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Less than a fortnight after making an acrimonious change of guard in the poll-linked state by replacing Captain Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi, the state’s Dalit chief minister, Congress had a thunderclap, Tuesday, with the surprise resignation of its head of state unit, the mercurial Navjot Singh Sidhu.
While the change in leadership was aimed at ending the escalation of factional feuds within the party and reversing perceived power opposition to the Singh administration, Sidhu’s resignation as leader of the Punjab’s unity is now threatening to push Congress deeper into the abyss of its internal strife just four months before the assembly votes in the state.
“The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromised corner. I can never compromise on the future of Punjab and the agenda for the future of Punjab. Therefore, I am resigning from my post as Chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Will continue to serve Congress, ”Sidhu said in her resignation letter to Acting Congress Leader Sonia Gandhi.
– Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) September 28, 2021
Sidhu posted the letter on Twitter, surprising many of his party colleagues. Sources said the congressional high command – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra – had no idea about Sidhu and that the letter was sent by the controversial leader to KC Venugopal, secretary general of the AICC ( organization), around the same time it was posted on Twitter.
Channi, who spoke at a scheduled press conference in Chandigarh shortly after Sidhu tweeted the letter, also claimed he was unaware of the resignation and had “full trust “in the head of the CCP.
Also read: How Amarinder Singh went from Punjab captain to Captain Cooked
Sidhu’s letter came on a day when the congressional leadership was already on edge due to speculation that Amarinder Singh, whose tenure as Chief Punjab minister ended prematurely on September 18, in large part due to the rebellion led by the former cricketer, could appeal to the Minister of the Interior of the Union. Amit Shah or the national president of BJP JP Nadda in New Delhi – as the precursor of the defection of royal Patiala to the saffron party.
Singh hushed up rumors soon after arriving in Delhi from Chandigarh by claiming that “no meeting with a politician” was planned and that he was only in the nation’s capital to collect his belongings from Kapurthala House , where the Punjab CM has an office.
However, the captain, bubbling over since his informal ouster and scathing in his criticism of the leader of the Punjab Congress whom he described as “anti-national”, insisted on saying of Sidhu’s resignation: “I told you so. . He (Sidhu) is unstable.
Sidhu has, for now, refrained from explaining why he left the post he fought for just two months ago despite strong resistance not only from Singh but also from ‘much of the Punjabic congressional leadership, including parliamentarians like Manish Tewari, Partap Singh Bajwa and Ravneet Singh Bittu. However, it was Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s unequivocal support that led Sonia Gandhi to quash Sidhu’s appointment as head of the CCP on July 18.
Sources in the Punjab Congress said Sidhu had been unhappy with the induction of some ministers into the recently sworn-in Punjab cabinet and also the administrative appointments made by the new chief minister.
After days of consultation with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other high-ranking colleagues in the party, Channi finalized the master plan for his new cabinet last week.
“Sidhu wanted Congress to replicate the recent BJP decision in Gujarat, where a brand new cabinet was sworn in. The party’s high command did not accept this as it did not want to open new fronts against high ranking MPs like Brahm Mohindra and others close to him. to Amarinder Singh who was already unhappy with recent events. Finally, Channi was told to keep eight ministers from the last cabinet and induct seven new faces, but this also became an issue with Sidhu as he wanted to select the entire cabinet but ultimately only got a handful. of its people like Pargat Singh and Raj Kumar. Verka, ”said a senior congressional official Federal.
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Sources say tensions with Sidhu escalated when Rahul Gandhi decided to oversee the cabinet’s training plans. “Instead of giving Sidhu carte blanche to avoid risking giving the impression that he was the super CM and that Channi was only supposed to get the votes of the Dalits, Rahul chose to personally oversee the formation of the cabinet. The party could not risk upsetting other high-ranking MPs or allowing Amarinder Singh’s followers to rebel. As such, most of the top ministers in the Singh cabinet were retained. What became a bone of contention was who the new inductions would be and that’s where Sidhu seems to have lost, ”said one of the party’s observers for Punjab. Federal.
The choice of new ministers has, however, become controversial.
Congress chose to induct Kapurthala MP and his Doaba region strongman Rana Gurjit Singh, whose name had previously surfaced in illegal sand mining and other corruption-related cases, this which led him to be sacked from the Amarinder Singh cabinet once earlier.
Not only Sidhu, but seven congressional deputies from the Doaba region of Punjab as well as the former Punjabic congressman MS Kaypee had urged Rahul Gandhi not to allow Gurjit Singh’s return to cabinet. Sidhu was also reportedly angry with Channi’s relative, with Aruna Chaudhary being inducted into the cabinet. The CCP leader also insisted on a broader representation of other Dalit Sikh faiths. He claimed that since the CM is a Ramdasia Dalit Sikh, the ministry should have representation from Mazhabi Dalit Sikhs, which was again rejected.
The next setback for Sidhu came when Channi decided to give Iqbal Singh Sahota, an IPS officer in 1988, an additional charge as the director general of the Punjab police. Sidhu reportedly wanted Channi to appoint Siddharth Chattopadhyay, head of IPS in 1986, as DGP after the government allowed outgoing DGP Dinkar Gupta to take a month off.
Although these decisions by Channi made it clear to Sidhu and other leaders of the Punjab Congress that the new CM would not act as a buffer for the more flamboyant and talkative CPC leader, there would have been two decisions made in the over the past 24 hours that finally broke patience.
This involved the appointment of controversial lawyer APS Deol as the Punjab’s attorney general and the distribution of portfolios to new cabinet ministers – none of whom apparently had Sidhu’s stamp of approval. Deol had represented the former SS DGP Saini of Punjab in the 2015 sacrilege cases as well as in a previous corruption case.
As Sidhu and much of the party’s deputies had made botched investigations into the sacrilege cases a major motive for their rebellion against Amarinder Singh, the choice of Deol – who had defended Saini’s role in the case – was awkward from the start. the beginning.
There are others in the party who believe that Sidhu’s discontent with the party started when the high command rejected his request for the post of chief minister and chose Channi instead.
“Contrary to popular belief, Channi’s appointment was not on Sidhu’s advice. When the party was discussing the nomination of Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa as CM, Sidhu told central party observers that if Amarinder was to be replaced by another CM Jat Sikh, then his candidacy should be considered. This turned the field upside down for Randhawa who was ultimately appointed CM assistant while Channi was chosen as CM. After the party announced its decision to give the Punjab its first Dalit WC, it was clear to Sidhu that if Congress were to win the assembly elections scheduled for February-March 2022, it would be difficult for him to replace Channi as it would be would play out badly for Congress nationwide, ”said a senior congressman from Punjab.
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Congressional sources say the party high command should make an effort to pacify Sidhu, but add that the Gandhis are unlikely to “do everything possible this time to appease Sidhu because his resignation and lingering crises reflect very wrong their decision to reject the advice of the top leadership and appoint him as the leader of the CCP in the first place. “
There are indications that some of Sidhu’s loyalists in the Punjab cabinet and Congress may also resign – Sidhu’s confidante and the newly sworn-in WCD and Social Security Minister Razia Sultan has already resigned – in solidarity with the former cricketer.
Renewed tensions within the Punjab Congress further precipitate the party’s problems at a time when it is expected to focus on fulfilling its election promises just four months away from the Assembly elections.
Meanwhile, Sidhu’s resignation also deprived Congress of national headlines for a positive reason: the induction of young and spirited leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mewani into the party which has in recent years gained notoriety for its recurring rebellions and its constant expansion. list of defectors.
The Punjab drama is by all indications far from over. Expect another salvo from angry Captain Amarinder Singh and yet another explosion from Sidhu very soon. Wait for the fireworks display.