New Delhi: Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has dropped ample hints about forming his own party sooner or later. If he goes ahead with this, then it will be a refuge for several disgruntled leaders of the Congress party.
Sources told The Sunday Guardian that many dissidents are in touch with the Captain, including several MPs and MLAs who have decided to quit the Congress. What is more significant is that Trinamool Congress chief and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is keeping a close eye on Amarinder Singh’s next move. All this is giving the party high command anxious moments. Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, who is in charge of the Congress in Punjab, has created problems for the high command already by projecting Navjot Singh Sidhu as Congress’ chief ministerial face for the upcoming Assembly elections. And now, Amarinder Singh is set to give more tension to the leadership.
Apart from coming down heavily on Sidhu, Amarinder Singh has targeted Rahul Gandhi’s team and has invited all disgruntled party leaders to join hands with him. With Sidhu set to decide on most of the Congress’ political steps, the dissidents are feeling suffocated and may prefer to go with the Captain. Several Punjab veterans are already upset with Team Rahul. With Sidhu emerging extremely powerful in Punjab, leaders such as Manish Tewari, Pratap Singh Bajwa and Ravneet Singh Bittu are now faced with challenges as far as their political future is concerned. Most of them are said to be Sidhu’s adversaries. The fight between Sidhu and Amarinder will impact Congress politics in other states as well.
There is no denying that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are not relying on veterans, particularly the disgruntled lot. Both Rahul and Priyanka, who have been running the party from behind since 2013, are now handling matters more openly. Sonia Gandhi is just a nominal head of the organisation; decisions are being taken by her two children. This is the reason why Rahul Gandhi is not communicating much with seniors now.
Rahul Gandhi trusts only a handful of veterans including Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, Ambika Soni and Digvijaya Singh. Rahul Gandhi does not pay heed to complaints against his confidants K.C. Venugopal, Ajay Maken and Randeep Surjewala. He continues to ignore the feedback that these leaders are weak in their respective states. Amarinder Singh too has targeted these leaders. But Rahul Gandhi believes that the older leaders are averse to attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So the Gandhi scion is trying to form a team which acts according to his wish.
That’s why Prashant Kishor, Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani and some former AAP leaders are still hopeful of being given Congress membership despite opposition from several leaders. The situation is such that the old guard is not in a position to oppose the entry of these leaders, although members of Rahul Gandhi’s team lack the courage to say anything against them openly. If Kishor and others are allowed to join Congress, the disgruntled old guard will move to Amarinder’s party.
Congress is not in a good position in the seven poll-bound states. Harish Rawat, who is engaged in resolving the Punjab problem, does not seem to be strong enough to lead the party back to power in Uttarakhand. The way Rawat is making statements on Punjab and Uttarakhand suggests that the party may slide down to third position in the hill state.
Needless to say, Rahul Gandhi has to face an acid test next year. If Congress’ political move of appointing a Dalit CM fails in the Punjab elections, and if the party loses all the other six states as well, then the challenges for Rahul Gandhi will go up immensely. The states going to the polls next year are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The leaders of other Opposition parties are already questioning Rahul Gandhi’s political understanding. This is the reason why no agitation could be visible on the ground despite Sonia Gandhi’s appeal to the Opposition to launch movements against the Modi government from 20 September.
On the contrary, the TMC has sought to project its leader Mamata Banerjee as the real alternative to PM Modi. This does not augur well for either Congress or Rahul Gandhi. Team Rahul may not be able to match Mamata’s might politically.