As the Congress faces internal party feuds across states, not to mention the open revolt against the Gandhis when it comes to the party’s central leadership, Punjab too, is now reeling under political stress, as the Congress unit of the state continues to emerge as a divided house. While the state unit of Congress in Punjab mirrors the condition of the party at the top, and also across states, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has perhaps realised that aligning himself with the Gandhis is the only way to secure and cement his position in the state for the foreseeable future.
While the central leadership of the party is bound to remain with the Gandhis, notwithstanding random spurts of comical rebellions against them, Captain Amarinder Singh realises that speaking against the party’s demigods could have unimaginable consequences for anyone who wishes to remain in power in Congress-ruled states. He has, therefore, come out in wholehearted support of Sonia Gandhi’s continuance as the party president, and has also called upon leaders of the party to bring in Rahul Gandhi to the top post after Sonia’s departure.
“Sonia Gandhi should continue to helm the Congress as long as she wants,” Captain said, adding that Rahul should thereafter take over as he was ‘fully competent’ to lead the party. “The Gandhis were the only universally recognisable face of the Congress, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Electoral defeats cannot be the yardstick for leadership change,” he further opined.
That’s not all; Captain Amarinder Singh, who was until such remarks was himself perceived as an independent and fearless leader of the Congress, has now called the demands for a change in the party’s central leadership ‘untenable’. He also said in a statement that the demands of an overhaul within the party at such a crucial juncture would be detrimental to its interests. It must be remembered that Captain has been among the few Congress leaders who have in the past, not shied away from taking on the Gandhis and striving for what they believe is right. For him to sing unequivocally in their favour now is an indication of how real the divide in Punjab Congress is.
The rift in the state unit of the party traces its origin back to the recent hooch tragedy in the state, which has claimed at least 121 lives. Two Congress Rajya Sabha members from Punjab –Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo have alleged “clear-cut failure” of the state administration and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the alleged “illegal” liquor trade. Supporting Partap Singh Bajwa are two other former Youth Congress leaders— Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring. Reports suggest that those rebelling against Captain are in fact close to former Congress President – Rahul Gandhi.
For Captain Amarinder Singh to come out with such unquestionable support for the Gandhis is indeed intriguing. From a man who until recently was not afraid to take them on, to now one who is acting oddly viz., the grand old family, a lot seems to have been learnt from the ongoing tussle in Punjab Congress.