New Face to Fix Dented Image
The Congress has scored another self-goal by forcing Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh to resign when the Assembly election is knocking at the door. The move will definitely provide a much needed boost to the principal opposition party the Shiromoni Akali Dal (SAD), whose popularity was severely dented over the controversial farm bill. At the same time, infighting within the Congress will allow the Aam Admi Party (AAP) to make major inroads in the state. Clearly, the Congress leadership has failed to assess the ground realities properly and may receive flak from the electorate for the said failure in the forthcoming elections.
What made the change in Punjab necessary is not clear till now. Some party leaders claim that the incumbent chief minister has lost touch both with the party and the people of Punjab as he adopted an autocratic style of functioning. His detractors have also pointed out that Captain Amrinder Singh has failed to free Punjab from the narcotic menace, one of the major promises made by the party during the last Assembly elections. The chief minister’s friendship with SAD leadership is being cited as another reason. On the other hand, Amrinder loyalists are putting the entire blame on Rahul Gandhi. The chief minister’s camp is of the opinion that the Gandhi family scion was instrumental in Amrinder’s removal. Even the chief minister himself has claimed that he has not spoken to Rahul Gandhi for the last two years.
In a democratic set-up, such differences are quite natural. There are many such instances in Indian politics where burying personal egos, two warring leaders had worked together to strengthen the party. It was expected that both Rahul Gandhi and Amrinder Singh would show enough maturity in dealing with the situation by keeping the party’s interest in mind. But both of them failed miserably. Rebellion within the Punjab Congress was fuelled by the followers of Rahul Gandhi and instead of quelling the fire, Amrinder kept on threatening to break the party. While Rahul exhibited his power by appointing Navjot Singh Siddhu as state Congress chief, Amrinder virtually threw a challenge to the party high command to remove him from his post by simply ignoring the party’s central leadership.
How deep the division within the Punjab Congress is, can be judged from the fact that the party legislatures could not elect a leader by themselves and entrusted the job to the party president. Even Sonia Gandhi found it difficult to solve the leadership issue. Ambika Soni refused to lead a faction-ridden party. Former state president Sunil Jakhar has no takers. The question is will the new face be able to change the fortune of the party? Perhaps not as infighting has severely dented the image of the party and it will be difficult for any leader to fix it within the remaining 180 days of the present Assembly. It would have been better if the party had decided not to disturb Amrinder till his term is over and think of a new leadership after the Assembly elections. But the party leaders decided otherwise and the party may have to pay a heavy price for their wrongdoings.