With political temperatures in Punjab already soaring due to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, the ruling Congress party is also trying to weed out bickering within the party with elections barely a year away.
The big challenge that Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh confronts is the ‘rehabilitation’ moves for former minister and his bête noire Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The cricketer-turned-politician, Sidhu, set political circles abuzz last week when he met Congress President Sonia Gandhi amidst reports that the latter was keen on getting him back into active political mode for the party. Sidhu, who has been a star campaigner for the party, has maintained a low key ever since he quit the ministry last year.
On Sunday, party in-charge for Punjab affairs, Harish Rawat, met the Chief Minister to discuss ‘ways’ to rehabilitate Sidhu.
The party is mulling various options before the Chief Minister and also what kind of offer will be acceptable for Sidhu.
Speaking to News18.com, Rawat said, “Sidhu is important for both the party and politics of Punjab. He needs to come back to action and decide his course of action for the benefit of the party in the State.”
But this seems easier said than done. Sources say, with just a year left for polls, Sidhu may not show that much of keenness to accept a ministerial berth. “He is perhaps eyeing a bigger political role such as heading the State unit of the party,” revealed a party insider. This, according to sources, could give him leverage in terms of hold on the entire party unit in the State.
Political strategist and analyst Captain Navjeet Sandhu said, “Sidhu needs to find his moment in the sunshine. Yes, he is important for the party but he too would be seeking a lead role and not any supporting role for himself in the party.”
Also, there is a probability that Sidhu could be offered a larger role in Delhi and made a star campaigner during the polls.
It won’t be a cakewalk for Sidhu as well. Analysts say that given how the Chief Minister had rallied behind the farmers during the stir, his position had become quite strong within the party.
“So any attempt to propel Sidhu will also have to bear in mind that a decision cannot be thrust upon the Chief Minister,” said a senior party leader.
Also, for any Cabinet reshuffle, the high command will have to balance out the Jat, Dalit and Hindu representation in the ministry. “The party is aware that the BJP could get some advantage, if the votes are polarised. So high command needs to give adequate balance in the Cabinet,” added a senior leader.