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When a government moves towards the last months of its term, the mood is generally sombre and pensive, with a lot of energy devoted towards reflection and deliberation. Celebratory mood of Congress MLAs with Navjot Singh Sidhu as new President of PPCC is a unique occurrence. It appears that the result of 2022 Punjab assembly is already declared for the Congress and the only thing that remains, is the beginning of a new term for Congress rule , this time most certainly with Navjot Singh Sidhu as the chief minister of Punjab. Just thinking loud!

History of Congress rule in Punjab has seen the replacement of sitting chief ministers more than once. Gopi Chand Bhargava was the first victim of such a policy. Bhim Sen Sachar, Partap Singh Kairon, Harcharan Brar also went through the same fate. It started with Punjab MLAs memorandums to Pt. Nehru, against Partap Singh Kairon and now it was his great grandson, who was giving patient hearing to Punjab MLAs. The only thing changed was that Rahul Gandhi gave more patient hearing to dissidents than his great grandfather had ever shown to Punjab MLAs.

Sidhu took oath on July 23, after two months long political slugfest, with none other than the CM Capt. Amarinder Singh hitting hard at his style of functioning and the un-kept promises he made to the electorate ahead of 2017 state polls. Amarinder resisted his elevation and even announced not to meet Sidhu till he apologised for the derogatory remarks he made on the social media. But finally things fell in place, as a party leader rightly revealed, “those who made Sidhu the President (of state unit) also did the follow-ups”.

The pain is no less for Amarinder who saw his well-conserved aura crumbling in days and he accepted to reach for Sidhu’s coronation alongwith the party-men, ministers of his cabinet, MPs and MLAs; inviting them over tea before the event. It seems the message is clear for him, “enough”.

With Amarinder coming in, the entire party has fallen in line. “It’s our party, high command made Sidhu the President, who’s objecting,” all are in chorus; particularly those who objected to the anointment, in muffled voices or were loud.

This is the first time that Congress high command has nominated a potential (undeclared) chief ministerial candidate as PPCC President, cut the sitting stalwart Chief minister to size and bypassing the “tallest leader”.

Take Punjab congress to victory in 2022, and you are the chief minister, this is the unwritten condition behind Navjot Singh Sidhu’s appointment. He is appointed not for a term, but for a task. If Congress wins 2022, he is CM, not President, if it fails, he is not President PPCC. In both cases, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s current post is temporary.

With Navjot Singh Sidhu as President, there will be greater division of labour in running organization matters. He is not a traditional politician negotiating his rise in the organization through grass root work. He’s para-dropped, made to sit over the partymen who claim to have scaled their upward journey dragging through the party hierarchy, toiling for decades.  

He shall serve as the celebrity leader with part time intellectualism. His projection of the  Punjab Model is one such indicator. With Sidhu in power, the traditional political class shall have greater say in the affairs of party and government. It is a paradox that Captain Amarinder Singh was opposing Sidhu’s elevation in the name of the traditional political class, while himself treating them like inferior mortals. In fact, the rise of Sidhu in the Congress is the revolt of the traditional political class against bureaucratic despotism which was stifling the scope for any political initiatives in the state. In fact, MLAs celebration with Navjot Singh Sidhu’s elevation is celebration of new found freedom from the fear of bureaucracy. With the increasing control of bureaucracy over Captain Amarinder Singh led government, the political class was feeling suffocated and it was becoming increasingly irrelevant. It’s biggest fear was how to face voters in the coming elections. They were losing political credibility before the eyes of their own electorate.

MLAs are elected representatives of people. They cannot be treated like cronies, this is the message they are trying to convey, while throwing their weight behind Navjot Singh Sidhu. The challenge is that for how long, Navjot Singh Sidhu shall retain the new found affection of MLAs. Affection is always short-lived, as Machiavelli suggested, it is over once a purpose is served. Can Sidhu, remembered as Sherry in the cricket world, be different? He has to be!

There’s a painful journey awaiting Navjot Sidhu in the Punjab Congress, once the early euphoria dies!

About the author:
Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill

Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill The writer, Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill teaches Political Science at SGTB Khalsa College, North Campus, Delhi University. He’s also a Convener, of a course committee on social sciences, in Central board of secondary education (CBSE). Apart from short stories, he writes on Punjab politics and Sikh history. He has authored six books in Punjabi and English. Non-Congress Politics in Punjab (2015), 1708 Dasam Guru di Dakhan Feri (2017) and Kes History of Sikhs and other Essays (2020) are some of his better known works. He can be reached at:[email protected] He can be reached at: [email protected]

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