Politics is an arena where it is easy for friends to turn into foes. It happens beyond the boundaries of the party lines, and sometimes within the party as well. In the Congress party, a weird dynamics of party members turning against each other has been prevalent since its inception. One can remember the split in the party in 1969 which followed the expulsion of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and that led to the formation of Congress (I) and Congress (O). This time the story turns to the two leaders from the land of five rivers, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Captain Amarinder Singh, who is the Chief Minister of Punjab, has been vocal about his discontentment from the party members over issues which according to him constituted statements that were blown out of proportion. From Sam Pitroda to Priyanka Gandhi, Amarinder Singh has put his opinion without any fear. On the other hand, Navjot Singh Sidhu has time and again has made Congress, a focal point of many controversies including the one about Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony.
The dynamics between Singh and Sidhu depicts the plot of Hindi movie Kroadh, where one brother uses the moral ground to redeem himself while the other does not consider about values and virtues. In the Congress party, the presence of Sidhu and Amarinder Singh reflects an uneasy truce. It is a well-known fact that the two senior leaders of the Punjab Congress have had polar views regarding many vital issues. Their inability to see eye to eye isn’t new. On the invitation of Pakistan’s Foreign Office for the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan, Amarinder Singh had vehemently rejected the invitation by citing the continuous terror attacks from across the border. However, calling it a personal invite from a dear friend, Sidhu not only accepted the invitation but also attended the ceremony.
Amarinder Singh had heavily criticised Sidhu for his act of hugging the Pakistan Army chief. Arminder Singh had said, “I think it was wrong of him (Sidhu) to have shown the affection he did for the Pakistan army chief. I am not in its favour… the fact is that the man (Sidhu) should understand that our soldiers are being killed every day. My own regiment lost one major and two jawans a few months ago.” The anger was justified as even if the invite was Sidhu’s personal business, one could not neglect the fact that the Pakistani Army is responsible for cross border attacks.
It is important to mention here that Sidhu hasn’t been sharing a good relationship with his boss, Punjab CM, Amarinder Singh over the last few months. It took a turn for the worse after Sidhu drew criticism for his objectionable closeness to Pakistan PM Imran Khan, keeping his friendship with Imran Khan over the nation in his list of priorities.
Sidhu had continued to make pro-Pakistan remarks and his comments after the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the pre-emptive Balakot airstrikes conducted by the IAF against JeM terror training camps were particularly distasteful. After Pulwama terror attacks, he had said, “Terrorism has no religion, no nation”. Referring to the Balakot airstrikes, Sidhu stated, “Were you uprooting terrorists or trees? Was it an election gimmick?” To this, the Punjab CM had reacted saying that, Sidhu didn’t understand the “intricacies” of the defence sector. The leader, who has had a difference of opinion with Mr. Sidhu over Pakistan, said he had served in the Army whereas the minister was a cricketer.
The difference of opinion between the two Congress leaders has been evident on various occasions. After his visit to Pakistan, Sidhu had said that Rahul Gandhi was his captain while Amarinder was an army captain. This was a direct insult to Punjab CM and also inappropriate for a leader who presides over the cabinet Navjot Singh Sidhu is a part of. In regard to this statement, many Congress leaders had asked Sidhu’s resignation from the Punjab cabinet.
Sidhu has reasons to be a rebel in the party. As per the reports from sources close to Sidhu, he has a cause to be upset as his wife has been denied a ticket from the constituency of her choice, i.e. Chandigarh. The Lok Sabha seat has gone to veteran Congress leader Pawan Bansal. There has been no formal announcement about Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur. There was a buzz going around that she might be fielded from the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency but the Congress has fielded sitting legislator, Gurjit Singh Aujla from the Lok Sabha constituency. This hints towards Sidhu’s loss of reputation in the party. However, Sidhu, being a minister in the Punjab government, is wasting the hard earned taxpayer money by keeping himself out of work. Someone as erratic as Sidhu shouldn’t be serving as a public servant with his whims and fancies getting the better of his duties.
Sidhu had left the BJP after he was miffed with the party leadership for fielding Arun Jaitley from the Amritsar constituency in the 2014 general elections. However, Sidhu, who had joined the Congress party in the run-up to the Punjab assembly polls, was also said to be upset about not being invited to speak at a party rally in Moga, which was attended by Rahul Gandhi. Sources also say that Sidhu was upset over not being included in the star campaigners list for the state of Chhattisgarh. It is a sudden rise and fall for Navjot Singh Sidhu.
#ElectionTracker : @sherryontopp will not campaign in the state anymore as the rift between Sidhu and @capt_amarinder widens right before the last lap of the Lok Sabha elections. #ElectionsWithNews18 #LokSabhaElections2019
— News18.com (@news18dotcom) May 14, 2019
It has also been speculated that Sidhu was also welcomed in the party to keep a check on Amarinder Singh’s independent views, which seemed an uphill task for the Gandhi’s and dethroning him appears impossible. After all, he hails from Armed Forces background and his stand of not going to Pakistan showed his maturity and love for the nation.
Navjot Singh Sidhu desperately wanted to be in the list of star campaigners of Congress party. Amarinder on the other hand somewhere does pose a threat to the nepotistic rule in Congress. Recently, news that Sidhu was not campaigning because of “sore throat” was an excuse to put the fact under the carpet that Sidhu was finally suspended from being the start campaigner.
The cricketer-turned-politician and Punjab minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu was making headlines, time and again in the recent past over his controversial remarks and actions. Till very recently, Sidhu was seen as the favourite topic of Indian media outlets and newspapers. However, the Congress leader suddenly seems to have gone out of focus. Of late, there haven’t been any news reports mentioning him and he seems to have fallen out of the limelight. He doesn’t seem to be at the centre of the political scene either. It is strange how a leader who was a focal point for the media seems to have lost their attention all of a sudden.