Despite several meetings between rebel Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and top party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, in Delhi over his power tussle with Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, there seems to be no clear solution for the in-house rivalry. Next year’s assembly elections have made the matters worse for Congress which has found itself in a delicate situation over the Sidhu vs Amarinder spat.
Party sources reveal Sidhu won’t accept anything less than the post of Punjab Congress president or deputy CM, but that could create two power centres in the state ahead of the crucial elections. However, not giving the Amritsar MLA what he wants could also end up in Sidhu deserting the party.
Congress leaders in Punjab are of the opinion that making Sidhu the Punjab Congress chief will only result in more infighting when both Amarinder and Sidhu would want their favourites to contest elections. Since Sidhu is eyeing the CM post, he wouldn’t want Amarinder’s loyalists to become MLAs.
The Congress has a history of witnessing political war between top leaders in a state, and more often than not, the party has paid the price for it. In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot were fighting each other for the CM position in 2018. Congress played truce by making Gehlot the CM, and Pilot his deputy. Pilot also got the state party president post but his differences with Gehlot continued which eventually resulted in last year’s rebellion. Though Pilot mended his ways, he had to lose both his posts.
In Madhya Pradesh, Congress again preferred the senior Kamal Nath for Chief Minister over Jyotiraditya Scindia after the 2018 assembly elections. Kamal Nath also didn’t let Scindia become the state party chief to avoid a parallel power centre. However, the disgruntled Scindia ousted the Congress government by switching to BJP in March 2020.
Similarly, the differences between Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kumari Selja cost Congress the 2019 state assembly elections in Haryana.
How will it play out in Punjab then? Will Amarinder prevail, or will Sidhu pull a fast one? It sure is a political potboiler up north.