A ‘high command’ laid low by a maverick

A ‘high command’ laid low by a maverick

The Congress is in a difficult situation

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi. Credit: PTI Photo

Whatever Navjot Singh Sidhu meant by saying that “the collapse of a man’s character stemmed from the compromise corner”, his resignation as the Punjab Congress president meant the collapse of a political arrangement the party made in the state in the last few weeks and of the credibility of the party high command that made the arrangement, with the party being effectively seen as having painted itself into a corner. It is now being forced into making compromise efforts among the various factions of the party and trying to forge, or at least make a show of, unity and purpose among them when the Assembly elections are just weeks away. The party leadership is now paying the price for unwisely trusting a maverick who was known to be given to irrational conduct and wisecracks that do not make the right language for politics even in these odd times.  

Several reasons have been cited for Sidhu deciding to quit soon after the party leadership supported him in destabilising its own government and installing one under a leader who was acceptable to him. He is said to have been unhappy with some of the ministerial selections and official appointments made by the new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. But he did not have the sense to realise that his resignation would do more harm to the party than those appointments would. It was like a batsman leaving the pitch to register his protest against team selection after he had started his innings at the crease. This is irresponsible conduct and whatever way the crisis is resolved it can only hurt the party in the state and bring ridicule to it even in other states. 

The Congress is in a difficult situation. If Sidhu comes back to his position on his terms, the party would be seen as weak and appeasing a leader of unreliable nature and dubious loyalty, who put himself above the party. If he goes his way, the whole gamble the party made on him, sacrificing a leader of long standing, would have failed at a crucial time for it. All the caste balancing and calculations that went into the new arrangement would also go haywire. Whether Capt Amarinder Singh stays in the Congress or goes for other options, he can do harm to the party in the elections. There are more factions in the state party now, working at cross purposes, than a fortnight ago. Most importantly, Sidhu’s revolt is a slap for the party high command which practically is the combination of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi whose moral and political claim to leadership and judgement of men and matters will again be questioned.

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