American President Dwight D Eisenhower (1890-1969) had once made a remark which needs to be remembered in wake of resignation of Navjot Singh Sidhu from the Punjab Cabinet: “This desk of mine is one at which a man may die, but from which he cannot resign.”
Congress politician Sidhu finds himself at the wrong end of the stick as encapsulated in this Eisenhower quote. His latest resignation incidentally is not from a political party, but from the ministerial portfolio, which he had in the government of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
What does Sidhu's resignation connote? Does it mean that the Congress malaise currently engulfing Karnataka and Goa will spread to the north and shake the Congress bastion in Punjab, which is easily the strongest Congress government?
The developments in Punjab will not have any impact on the Congress outside the state — in fact it will hardly have an impact within Punjab. On the contrary, Sidhu’s resignation will only strengthen Singh’s government. Now that he has resigned, Singh need not worry about how to remove him from the Cabinet. Sidhu’s exit will benefit the Cabinet and the state government.
Any thought that the ongoing political crisis in Karnataka — where the stability of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government is under threat 13 months after it was formed — will cast a shadow on Singh’s government in Punjab is something that even Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strategists haven’t visualised. In fact, the current political developments in Punjab having little to do with the BJP.
First of all, one must understand and appreciate the importance of being Captain Amarinder Singh. The 77-year-old Congress Chief Minister of a sensitive border state is a law unto himself in the Congress set up. He’s not dependent on the Nehru-Gandhi name for remaining in power. The fact when the Congress was mauled across most of the country, Singh survived it in style and he did it on his own terms. He won eight of the 13 Lok Sabha seats at a time when the Congress get double digits in just one state in India: Kerala.
Moreover, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amarinder Singh has projected himself as a strong and decisive leader and has never needed the crutches of the Gandhi clan to post an impressive electoral performance.
Ever since Sidhu made himself an unguided missile that hobnobbed with the BJP while flirting with the Aam Aadmi Party and eventually joined the Congress, he projected his image in a rather hurtful manner. His political demeanour was that he was willing to hire any political party which was game to further his own personal agenda.
In the current scenario when the Congress is hurtling down headlong into the pit of political anarchy everywhere else in the country and is damaging its governments in states it rules, Punjab happens to be an oasis.
Punjab happens to be an exception wherein negative political developments (such as Sidhu’s running feud with Singh, culminating in his resignation) have not harmed the party.
The pity is that Sidhu is an honest leader whose image is that he always walks his talk and keeps his promises. Perhaps, Sidhu yet again overstepped his brief or moira, to borrow a phrase from Greek tragedy, where he unfortunately belongs.
Rajeev Sharma is a senior journalist and political analyst. Twitter handle: @Kishkindha. Views are personal.