A step that might create a fresh rift within the Punjab Congress — the senior party high command sitting in 10, Janpath is mulling appointing a sulking Navjot Singh Sidhu as deputy chief minister in Punjab. The move is aimed to placate Sidhu, who has been miffed with the state unit party members for some time now after being unceremoniously dumped by CM Amarinder Singh. Fearing he might join AAP or any other rival political party, Congress is chancing its luck by taking the gamble.
According to a TOI report, Sidhu as deputy CM to Amarinder Singh is a combination the party leadership is actively considering as it considers options in Punjab. That Amarinder Singh would be the automatic CM face besides being actively projected as one may ensure that the veteran does not mind the solution offered by the peace brokers.
While Amarinder and Sidhu have an iffy relationship, the latter seems to be on good terms with the Gandhi siblings viz. Rahul and Priyanka. However, if the Gandhi clan goes ahead with the proposition of throwing Sindhu into the thick of things, it could severely upset Amarinder who absolutely abhors the sight of Sidhu. It would not be a hyperbole to predict that Captain might even try to chart his own course, away from the Congress party, if push comes to shove.
Sidhu was extremely vocal against the Punjab government’s functioning and especially Captain Amarinder Singh while he was a cabinet-level minister — although he had to pay the price for it after he was ejected from the cabinet by the two time CM.
Amarinder had divested Sidhu of the Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments and allotted him the power and new and renewable energy portfolio. However, Sidhu had refused to assume the charge and resigned.
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.
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 who duly noted it in his book and used it to chart Sidhu’s departure.
Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had not gone down well with Amarinder either. “I don’t know why he has a habit of doing these things. Probably he has been on camera so often that he says these things without thinking. But the thing is that I raised this point last time when he hugged General Bajwa. I told him this was no business of you to do because every day my soldiers are being shot. My own battalion lost a major and two Jawans a few weeks ago” the CM had said back then.
The state of Punjab goes into polls next year and Congress which has already seen its political map shrink by a considerable extent since PM Modi first came into power in 2014, is not willing to lose a state where it still has some sway. However, in an attempt to retain a popular face like Sidhu, Congress might be riling CM Amarinder who has a far greater connection with the ground voters and can actually be the decisive difference.