This article is the work of Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao who is a New Delhi based economist who has been an active participant in Andhra Pradesh.
The country is witnessing a brutal fight between the Gandhis ( 3 in number ) and Punjab chief MinisterAmarinder Singh . For the moment, the Gandhis won the fight by imposing Navjot Sidhu as Punjab Congress President against the threats of Amarinder Singh.
Eighty year old Amarinder Singh hails from the family of Maharaja of Patiala. Amarinder Singh joined politics in 1980 ,as a Congress MP. This is his second term, as Punjab chief Minister. When he was out of office in 2014, Amaridner Singh defeated the great Arun Jaitley in 2014 for Amritsar lok Sabha seat.
In the last 7 years, some Congress Chief Ministers ( Chhattisgarh & Rajasthan ) have become very popular with the Gandhis, by their humility and sycophancy . But Amarinder Singh is not a sycophant, keeps his distance and perhaps the Gandhis are upset with him for his dignity.
Much has been written about Sidhu recently. Navjot Sidhu has become the Punjab Congress Presidentpurely with the support of the Gandhis. Siddhu is a great comedian and popular personality. He became aMinister in Amarinder Singh’s cabinet. They did notget on well and he resigned in 2018.
Siddhu cleverly cultivated the Gandhi family and created stories about Amarinder Singh and how as Chief Minister, he was reckless about the Gandhis. The Gandhis became willing listeners to such stories and the gap between Gandhis and Amarinder Singh widened. Punjab elections are scheduled for February, 2022. But the Gandhis decided to reduce the stature of Amarinder Singh and project Siddhu, a known enemy of Capt Amarinder Singh. Though elections are near, the Gandhis felt there was no risk to the Congress even if Amarinder Singh was upset. Gandhis considered the following reasons : 1. In 2017, Congress won only 38% of the votes and got 77 MLAS out of 117 MLAs. In 2017, Punjab had a three-cornered fight between Congress, Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Aam ADMI Kejriwal party .The non-Congress vote was divided and again in 2022, there will be 4 major players instead of 3 and the NON-Congress vote will be more divided. That is why the Gandhis are confident. 2. The Gandhis are also sure that most of the MLAs will support them and ditch Amarinder. This isbecause elections are near and Congress tickets have to be obtained. MLAs are only loyal to power.3. There was general rebellion amongst seniors in the Congress party against Rahul Gandhi. After humiliating Congress defeats in Assam and Kerala , even the non-BJP Opposition hinted they did not want Rahul Gandhi as Prime minister candidate. If the Gandhis did not control Amarinder Singh, then there will be open rebellions everywhere. So the Gandhis made Amarinder Singh an example to show they will be merciless to anyone who opposes them. 4. The Gandhis are also sure they don’t want Amaridner Singh to get a second term as Chief minister, as he will then become beyond their control. So this Sidhu drama is part of that conspiracy.
Though Navjot Sidhu has been appointed President of Punjab Congress, chief minister Amarinder Singh is silent. Amarinder Singh has demanded that Sidhu apologize openly for the abuse he heaped on him and only then he will meet him. Till now, Sidhu has not apologized.
Risks in humiliating Amarinder Singh :a. There is the risk of Amarinder Singh either resigning or sacking all the Ministers against him. There is still five months time for the election. Amarinder can continue as care taker chief Minister till elections. That would be a nationaldisaster for the Gandhis. b. If Amarinder Singh continues as care taker Chief minister, he will be able to form an alliance with other parties, canvass as a Chief Minister and damage the Congress in the February, 2020, elections
The Congress got just 38% of the vote in 2017 . It is risky for the Congress to go into elections with Amarinder Singh as an opponent. But the Gandhis might not have gambled on that that possibility,thinking that former Maharaja of Patiala has no honour and like other Congress politicians will take insults.
The Gandhis might have felt that if they did not attack Amarinder Singh, there will be rebellions in otherstates. So humiliating Amarinder Singh is a warning to other Congress leaders.
Just 2 days ago, Rahul Gandhi gave a very insulting statement to Congress leaders : There is no place in the Congress for people who are afraid, and they are free to leave”.
The Gandhsi are showing a belligerence which is inadvisable. The Congress was always soft with dissidents and tries to adjust everyone. But obviously,Rahul Gandhi wants to behave like a Regional party leader.
Amarinder Singh not only has a ‘Sword of Honor” ,but also a sharp tongue and intelligence. Time will tell whether Sidhu will become a King or is only a Comedian ! If Amarinder rebels, it will be a big disaster for the Gandhis. Did Gandhis take an un-necessary gamble ? The next few days will see major changes in Punjab.