New Delhi: The Congress has seen constant disputes within its Punjab unit. Before the change of CM in Punjab, the party’s vulnerabilities were out in the open—the continued infighting and public bickering between Navjhot Singh Sidhu and Capt. Amarinder Singh. After Capt. Amarinder Singh resignation, Sidhu resigned as Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President abruptly after CM Charanjit Channi allocated portfolios. Subsequently, the Sidhu-Channi dispute gained traction. Sidhu’s public pronouncement over Channi’s functioning had wiped away the idea that Congress in Punjab was doing fine. The synergies between the leaders were missing just before the elections when everything should have been sorted out. During the dispute, a senior Congress leader had told The Sunday Guardian: “There is a need for proper restructuring of party at the grassroots level.” Looking back at how the Ellenabad by-election was contested (disorderly) by the Congress, he asserted that there has to be a strategic way to contest elections. But the recent Sidhu-Channi “bonhomie” has given the Congress a chance to take on the opposition in a united manner, at least on the face of it. Last week the duo praised each other at regular intervals in the special Vidhan Sabha session and launched an offensive against the opposition.
Dr Teginder Kumar, Assistant Professor Political Science from Punjab University Patiala, Ghanaur, told The Sunday Guardian, “Schedule Caste has been Congress’ support base from the beginning, but it was somewhat going away and sliding towards the Bahujhan Samaj Party (BSP) lately, but now after Channi’s emergence, Congress has re-consolidated its support base which will help the Congress eventually.” He added: “Channi has overshadowed the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) agenda also by actually being a common man and breaking the VIP culture and doing progressive work which has touched a chord with the locals.”
Kumar added, “If we see Congress two months back (during Amarinder Singh’s reign), it was not that strong, but after the dynamic performance of Charanjit Channi, there are less chances for other parties to score any substantial gains. There was a monopoly among private busses which the transport minister Raja Warring broke and now the government bus service is earning close to Rs 1 crore every day.”
Channi has been a surprising performer, allowing Congress to connect back well with the masses. Although Captain Amarinder’s resignation was seen as a blow to Congress by some political analysts, the Congress is sure that the Captain’s resignation will not impact the party. Former in-charge PPCC, Harish Rawat, told The Sunday Guardian: “I don’t think it will be a loss for the Congress, he has gone out of the Congress out of his own interest. He had some other plans on his mind, he cannot blame that he was removed from the party.”
Rawat indicated that it was Amarinder who couldn’t carry Sidhu along with him, leading to sour relations. Rawat said: “In fact, Sidhu was made president strictly after the consent of Captain Amarinder Singh. He consented for him being made president. It was the duty of Captain Amarinder to carry him along as a senior man.”
Rawat added: “I think more than 150 senior leaders, including MLAs and ex-MLAs and all who mattered in Punjab politics, were consulted, even the CM was consulted. Everyone’s opinion was taken. CM never showed any inclination in fulfilling the promises his party had made in the manifesto and at the public platforms. There was no way left for us but to call for Congress Leaders Party (CLP) meeting. He was asked to attend that CLP meeting, but instead of that he went to the Governer and resigned. Congress had given him all the options to deal with the situation though the MLAs were demanding his resignation.”
A senior journalist from Punjab having deep understanding of Punjab politics told The Sunday Guardian, “In the fight for optics, Channi has outscored everyone (predecessors and opposition), so whosoever had an agenda of social justice or performance, Channi has outplayed everyone.” He also said: “If we see the main regional party Akali Dal, there are three things against them—one, when they were ruling Punjab for two consecutive terms, they patronised the mafia. Secondly, they were in alliance with BJP when it brought three agriculture ordinances, and to protest against that, there was sit-in for seven days outside their homes and only then did the Akali Dal break its alliance with the BJP. There is a lot of influence the Kisan Union has and it has become anti-Akali by default now. Thirdly, Congress has been backing farmers indirectly in full vigour and that has conveyed the message of sympathy towards them.”