New Delhi: ‘I have told the High Command that if you don’t let me take decisions, mein itt naal itt vaja dunga (I will create mayhem)’ - so said Punjab Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu in his latest salvo against his Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Congress has not changed any of its Chief Ministers amidst demands for the same but there seems a free-for-all in all the three states that the party rules with the aspirants challenging the Chief Minister publicly.
In doing so, they are also questioning the authority of the party leadership, which lies rudderless with no regular Congress Chief for the last two years now. Repeated directives from the High Command to the warring leaders to not have public spats and raise their arguments in party forums have fallen on deaf ears, raising the specter of indiscipline in the party.
The BJP, however, has changed three Chief Ministers this year, including two in Uttarakhand and in Karnataka, but with little or no washing of dirty linen in public. “In politics, there will obviously be ambitions, and aspirants who put forward their case in our party forums. But the party discipline holds supreme and once a decision is taken at the top in the party, everyone follows the same and accepts it. We saw this in Uttarakhand as well as in Karnataka. None of the aspirants had criticized the choice of Chief Minister,” a senior BJP leader told News18.
Another senior leader in BJP highlighted Narendra Modi’s strong leadership as the “binding force for the discipline” in the party even in testing circumstances, that has led to smooth transition of power like in Karnataka where B.S. Yediyurappa sat along with the new Chief Minister while relinquishing the chair. “Can you imagine that in any of the three Congress states? The core issue that the Congress leadership is weak and hence party leaders can take on the leadership in public,” the leader said.
Rahul Gandhi, for example, during his meeting with Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and T.S. Singh Deo two days ago in Delhi had told them to sort out their differences, ruled out a leadership change, asked Baghel to give Deo more prominence in his Cabinet and made it clear that he did not want a repeat of a situation like in Punjab where Sidhu is openly warring with Captain Amarinder Singh. But Baghel on reaching Raipur openly took on Deo and the latter also made a case publicly for the CM chair saying every team-member aspires to be Captain. Baghel has been summoned to Delhi again today.
In Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu has not missed any opportunity to take on Captain Amarinder Singh despite repeated pleas from the High Command and Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat to the two leaders to work together. This week, Sidhu met a group of 20 MLAs seeking the removal of Singh as the Chief Minister which prompted Singh to make a show of strength by assembling a group of 60 MLAs. “Instead of fighting the Akali Dal and AAP, we are so far pre-occupied with fighting amongst ourselves as Sidhu is trying to sabotage Singh’s chair,” a senior Minister in the Punjab government told News18.
In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot has so far maintained a dignified position in public but his patience is being tested as deliberations by the party for nearly two months now for a cabinet reshuffle have not resulted in any action. Pilot has been hoping for his loyalists to be accommodated in the Cabinet before the assembly session in the state begins next month but Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has so far not relented. The situation seems similar to Madhya Pradesh where Jyotiraditya Scindia ran out of patience and brought down the Kamal Nath government by jumping ship to the BJP with his 20 loyalist MLAs.There seems to be no such danger of a government topple-over in the three Congress-ruled states, given the comfortable majority the party enjoys but the public spats are compromising the chances of the party in Punjab ahead of elections which are just five months away. The tussle in Punjab could in fact escalate during ticket distribution and muddy the waters for the Congress in the election. It is time for the Congress High Command to get its house in order as a loss in Punjab and Uttarakhand will only escalate a downslide of the party in run up to 2024.