As Captain Walks Off the Pitch, He Leaves Behind an Uneven Playing Field for the Congress - Vibes Of India

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As Captain Walks Off the Pitch, He Leaves Behind an Uneven Playing Field for the Congress

| Updated: September 18, 2021 23:15

Rumblings in the Punjab Congress on Saturday took a different trajectory with veteran party leader and State Chief Minister Amarinder Singh pre-empting his removal from office.

By stepping down from the post of chief minister barely 30 mins before the scheduled meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, where a change of guard was expected, the CM demonstrated that he is a principal scriptwriter as far as the affairs of the party in the state are concerned.

In doing so, Amarinder queered the pitch for the Congress, deftly shearing away the sheen of the party’s tradition of a smooth transition. Taking it further, his public statement on the sense of humiliation heaped on a seasoned politician with years of public service by the Grand Old Party has the potential to kindle sympathy even among the stone-hearted.

Now since the anointment of Navjot Sidhu as the State Congress Chief, the relationship between the chief minister and the party chief can at best be described as moderately tolerating.

As Sidhu drew strength from the firm backing of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, legislators upset with Amarinder’s style of function began rallying around him. While stepping down, a statement against Sidhu and his connections with leaders across the western border is certain to complicate sentiments against any decision favouring the PCC Chief.

Additionally, the presence of an overwhelming majority of legislators at the Saturday meeting will be offered as proof of the tide against Amarinder. The party, as per its glorious tradition, awaits a decision of Congress president authorised by the assembly to nominate the next legislature party leader.

While there is no doubt that Amarinder is the most recognised face of the party in Punjab and elsewhere in the country, over the past few years, he has lost a lot of goodwill with his own legislators and ministers. There were constant complaints he remained inaccessible while legislators faced the ire of their constituents.

‘Uneven’ playing field

Now, Amarinder’s laid-back style of working is not a new acquisition. Yet, for a leader who would turn an octogenarian by the time Punjab goes to polls early next year, neither he nor the Congress built a second line of leadership. This after Amarinder Singh announcing that the 2017 elections would be his last. On his part, the veteran changed his plan.

Pushback from constituents in the backdrop of inability of getting things done through bureaucracy and little access to the Chief Minister was the perfect recipe to stir the political cauldron. Adding further spice was the ineffective action of the government on issues that agitated the people – drug menace, sacrilege cases, corruption and perception of being soft towards the Badals.

Feedback from Punjab to central leadership was that of a state where the party in the driver’s seat could lose its way. This when the political landscape presented a favourable picture, with the Akalis under the Badals struggling to find a firmer ground, the nascent Aam Aadmi Party attempting to reclaim space and the Bharatiya Janata Party retreating to a corner.

Point of no return

Amid all this, the Congress central leadership could have handled the situation with finesse. Instead of providing the veteran leader an honourable exit, it forced his hand at a time when its own position was under attack.

Even during 2002-03, when Sonia Gandhi established her leadership credentials, the party did not allow Rajinder Kaur Bhattal-led dissidents, upset with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s style of functioning, to push the issue beyond a point. She stood behind the Chief Minister.

Now a generational change is underway and clearly, Amarinder finds himself in unchartered waters. Having declared a feeling of humiliation at the hands of party leadership it is unlikely he would continue in the Congress. It is almost untenable. Now the question is where does he go from here? What would he do?

Let us look at the theoretical possibilities. Even though he came from the Shiromani Akali Dal in the mid-1990s to the Congress, the initial association with Akalis came in the backdrop of sentiments in the wake of Operation Bluestar and developments around it.  

As for the Aam Aadmi Party, it was the party’s meteoric rise in 2014 Lok Sabha and dalliance with the radically-inclined ahead of the 2017 assembly polls that unnerved the established parties. These parties closed ranks and the result, Congress got a huge majority.

Now only the BJP remains. Can Captain Amarinder Singh move over? At the Saturday interaction, the response was: “There is always an option and I will use that option when the time comes…at the moment I am still in Congress”.  Can he float his own party? Politics, it is said, is the art of possibilities.

K V Prasad is a senior Delhi-based journalist.

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1 Comment

  1. D.SangeethaRao

    Mr Amarinder Singh better to co-operate with Congress due to Congres was much respected him.
    At present situations, he should come national politics to make strength party by leaving state to young stars. Mr Amarender Singh is seeing self benefit than national interest

    Now India needs best President of India than Broom Presidents and legs cleaning presidents.

    The 42nd Constitutional Amendment seized Presidential powers and made to President as Safai karmachari.
    Indian president of India should elect by colligium MPs MLAs and in the colligium include villages ward members municipal councilors and Metro cities corporaters.

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