Punjab decisions mark the beginning of the Gandhi scion’s ‘political act II’.


New Delhi: What is now being seen is former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s “second part” of politics. His new political experiments have created massive ripples in the Congress. The party seems to be headed for a split, but Rahul Gandhi will not apparently budge an inch. The epicenter of the imminent split will be Punjab this time. If something like this happens, it will cost the Gandhi family dearly. There is no charismatic leader like Indira Gandhi who could revive the party at this point of time. Again, the situation is not akin to the 1970s when there was no opposition as such. Apart from a strong BJP, there are several regional parties which are also strong presently. So, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s mission to overhaul will cost heavily for the Congress.

No doubt, the Punjab crisis has raised several questions. Former PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu appears to be fomenting trouble for Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. However, some leaders believe that everything will be all right in the next few days. Former CM Amarinder Singh cornered Sidhu over national security issues in what does not augur well for Congress. Amarinder also met NSA Ajit Doval on national security issues which gave the internal war much wider dimensions. Amarinder Singh said that he handed over certain documents related to national security to the NSA. Observers believe that Amarinder Singh must have shared the same information with Sonia Gandhi also. Despite that, the Gandhi family took such a big step in Punjab. If the issues of national security and nationalism assume large proportions, then the disgruntled Congress leaders will be joining hands with Amarinder Singh in future. Congress sources say that the party has also something to “reveal” against Amarinder Singh if either he leaves the party or is expelled from the party.

In what is being seen as Act 2 of his political operations, Rahul Gandhi is looking for people who could hit the Modi government hard by attacking its policies. Rahul Gandhi is said to have made up his mind that those who are not happy with his decisions can leave the party. Rahul Gandhi may think like that, but the Congress will suffer a lot if exodus takes place in present circumstances. Sources say that Rahul Gandhi got disillusioned with several leaders after the 2019 Lok Sabha defeat. After joining politics in 2004, Rahul Gandhi tried to build his own team of young leaders. Most of them were sons of veteran Congress leaders. Some of them were made ministers after winning election, while some of them were given state leadership roles. They were also seen in significant positions in frontal organisations. Rahul Gandhi thought that like his father Rajiv Gandhi, he had formed a team of youngsters. But after the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle, the situation started changing. Rahul Gandhi continued to rely on his team and old faces who somehow convinced him that the Congress will easily win in 2019 polls. But the Congress suffered a massive defeat. Rahul Gandhi is said to be under the impression that most of the leaders are afraid of PM Narendra Modi. Gradually, Rahul Gandhi started getting disillusioned with even many of his team members.

In this new part 2, the strength of politicians’ sons is negligible in the team. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi started searching for such leaders who don’t hesitate to target PM Modi directly. Sidhu had proved himself to be fit for the job. So, Rahul Gandhi started his experiments from Punjab and picked up Sidhu despite the former cricketer being a controversial face. The Gandhi scion also allowed controversial leader Kanhaiya Kumar to be part of Congress. An Independent MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani was also made to join the party. Some more faces may be seen in the Congress in future. Former CPI leader, Kanhaiya, who is facing sedition charges, is also unpredictable like Sidhu in terms of making statements. On the very first day, Kanhaiya called Congress a sinking ship.

Meanwhile, the Punjab problem continues to trouble the Gandhis. Rahul Gandhi’s decision to pick the politically less experienced Harish Chaudhary as a point person between him and MLAs of Punjab was also a wrong one. The MLAs’ telephonic talk with Rahul Gandhi which was arranged by Chaudhary came out in the open, after which the entire plan went topsy-turvy. Amarinder Singh got alerted and moved strategically. That is why it took the high command so long to reach a decision.

Meanwhile, Harish Rawat created a row by his statements. This was followed by Sidhu’s resignation which embarrassed the party a lot. All these decisions were taken after political strategist Prashant Kishor got closer to Rahul Gandhi. Sources say that Kishor might have given the advice for such an overhaul in Punjab so that he could join the Congress with no heavyweight around to oppose him. The leaders who devoted 50 years of their life to Congress are surprised over what is happening.

Some of the younger leaders are already with other parties, leaving the Congress. More than half of those who are not happy with Rahul Gandhi’s decisions are still with the party. With no full-time president at the helm, leaders are insisting on having a permanent head of the organisation.

Amarinder Singh seems to be a hope at the same time for the disgruntled leaders in the present scenario. Singh has said he would leave Congress, but won’t join BJP. Amarinder Singh wants to create a situation so that the government in Punjab falls on its own. A big faction is against Sidhu. If Sidhu continues to be “supreme CM”, then Congress in Punjab will see a big split. Meanwhile, CM Charanjit Singh Channi is trying to mollify the disgruntled leaders. The Congress will take a call soon on whether to retain Amarinder Singh or expel him.