Cong ties itself in knot on leadership issue in Punjab

Congress ties itself in knot on leadership issue in Punjab

Congress is finding it difficult to name one as the undisputed leader and the concern is growing in the rank

Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh with State Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu during a meeting in Chandigarh. Credit: PTI File Photo

Tying itself in knots over the Punjab internal dissension, Congress on Sunday said it will fight 2022 polls in the state under the leadership of Gandhis, days after it sort of declared that Amarinder Singh is the party captain for the Assembly polls.

"We will definitely fight the election in the name of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. They are our identities. They are our leaders," AICC general secretary for Punjab Harish Rawat said.

Five days ago, on August 25, Rawat had said "we will contest 2022 Punjab elections under the leadership of Captain Amrinder Singh", a remark which did not go down well with the Navjot Sidhu camp, which had made a big pitch for the removal of Captain Amarinder Singh as CM.

As the remarks were being seen as a snub to the dissenters, Sidhu hit back saying "if you don’t let me take the decisions, I will also ensure total devastation''.

Read | Sidhu says will give 'befitting reply' if Congress doesn't allow him to take decisions

Buffeted by pressures from both sides, Rawat, who is finding it difficult to resolve the Punjab crisis, also approached the leadership with a request to relieve him from the charge of Punjab, arguing that he needs to focus on poll preparations in Uttarakhand, where he is the party face.

However, with the leadership not accepting his request immediately, Rawat will now be meeting both Chief Minister Singh and PCC chief Sidhu, and their supporters to broker peace.

Pargat Singh, who belongs to Navjot Sidhu camp, reminded that the three-member committee that had gone into the Punjab party issue, had said that the polls will be fought under the leadership of Sonia, Rahul and questioned the reason behind Rawat announcing that polls will be held under the leadership of the Captain.

Making a kind of course correction, Rawat said the party will also bank heavily on Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, PCC chief Navjot Sidhu as well as Pargat Singh.

Read | Citing polls in Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat seeks to be relieved as Congress's Punjab affairs in-charge

Pargat Singh has been critical of Amarinder Singh over unfulfilled poll promises in the past.

The back and forth statements of Rawat point to the deep division in the Punjab Congress unity, which the party leadership has not been able to resolve despite setting up a three-member high level committee, which gave a report, and appointing Sidhu as PCC chief ignoring the Chief Minister's objections.

The party's internal reports talk about a strong anti-incumbency against the Captain-led government while Sidhu is open to accepting the leadership of Captain even for the time being leaving the party leadership with very little legroom to plan any long-term strategy on the leadership issue.

Even in 2017, Congress was not very keen to announce Captain as the CM face but had to do it towards the end of the campaign. This time, Congress is finding it difficult to name any of the two as the undisputed leader and the concern is growing in the rank and file that a divided party unit can give edge to the opposition parties.


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