New Delhi, July 19 : By anointing Navjot Singh Sidhu as the Punjab PCC chief even after stiff opposition from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Sonia Gandhi has subtly sent out a message to chief ministers rein themselves in.
Congress insiders say that months of negotiation with Amarinder Singh proved to be futile, so the high command finally had its way with the Chief Minister. The action, insiders says, this is a message to the party’s state satraps as well as chief ministers who are asserting themselves.
The Congress is facing a Punjab-like situation in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where Sachin Pilot and T.S. Singh Deo, respectively, have chief ministerial ambitions.
Pilot had raised the banner of revolt last year, only to come back into the party. Singh Deo, on the other hand, has been careful. For the record, he maintains that “Soniaji and Rahul Gandhiji will decide.” He was in Delhi recently on a personal visit, which made Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel rush to Delhi.
During his Delhi visit, Baghel said he would abide by the decision of the leadership and returned to Raipur in the same plane with Singh Deo.
Congress high command is finally asserting itself after coming across as weak and indecisive in the aftermath of the 2019 poll débâcle and then after the collapse of the coalition government in Karnataka and its own dispensation in Madhya Pradesh, following the revolt of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is now a Union Minister.
The Madhya Pradesh government fell as a result of the feud between Scindia and the then chief minister, Kamal Nath. Scindia felt he was being sidelined by Kamal Nath. Pilot had the same complaint in Rajasthan.
There are other reasons as well for the disquiet in Rajasthan. A Congress worker in the state pointed out that even though the Ashok Gehlot government had completed one-half of its term, a number of political appointments were pending.
“With what face shall we go to the people in 2023 when the elections are announced?” he asked, adding that the strength of the PCC in Rajasthan was reduced to 39 after it was dissolved following the rebellion last year by the Pilot camp.
After the Punjab decision now, the Pilot and Singh Deo camps finally have a reason to believe that the high command would listen to their grievances and act on them.