The mercurial Navjot Singh Sidhu, quit dramatically as the state chief of Punjab Congress by putting his resignation on social media today in protest against some fresh cabinet appointments under the Chief Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi — the first Dalit to hold the office.
Sidhu wrote to Sonia Gandhi, interim Congress president saying, “the collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner. I can never compromise on Punjab’s future.”
Sidhu had earlier scalped Amarinder Singh, who resigned as Punjab CM saying the party had “humiliated” him.
More on the Sidhu saga
Sidhu’s dramatic exit comes four months ahead of the Punjab elections and leaves the Congress party in a political mess with the newbie Channi barely having announced his cabinet today.
Sidhu’s abrupt resignation gave Singh, a veteran Congress leader, a chance to say I told you so to the Gandhi family as he tweeted, “I told you so … he is not a stable man and not fit for the border state of Punjab”.
Singh was in Delhi for some crucial meetings including a hotly speculated meeting with Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister and J P Nadda, President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The former CM said he was in the capital to hand over his official CM residence in Delhi to Channi. Singh had earlier refused to rule out any tie up with the BJP saying only that he was not ever going to look at a political alliance with the Akali Dal.
Red faced Rahul and Priyanka
The Gandhi family, specially the Gandhi siblings, Rahul and Priyanka were left red faced at Sidhu’s resignation, which seemed to be a political poke in the eye for the Gandhi family.
Priyanka Gandhi had ensured the appointment of Sidhu as Punjab Congress chief in the teeth of total opposition from Singh.
Sidhu had then made political life miserable for Singh with his daily intemperate attacks on the CM and his government.
The Gandhi siblings gave Sidhu a patient hearing and he in turn kept tweeting pictures of himself with them.
Singh had publicly called Sidhu “antinational” when he resigned and said he would oppose him in every way possible.
Sonia Gandhi interim Congress president gave in to the siblings demand that Amarinder Singh was hugely unpopular and needed to go to ensure that the Congress escaped anti incumbency in the upcoming election.
A senior Congress leader told Gulf News today that “this raises questions on the political wisdom of the two siblings who run the party now. Sidhu has made a public spectacle of them and they have left us looking like losers just before the election. My party is a mess today”.
Sidhu’s endless tantrums
Political observers were also shocked that the Gandhi siblings were totally blinded by Sidhu, who had leapfrogged to the Congress a mere five years ago from the BJP. Sidhu first nearly committed to joining the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) before he joined the Congress.
Sidhu made no secret of his political ambition to be Punjab CM and despite being a part of the Singh cabinet, regularly had public run ins with him. He finally quit after his portfolio was changed. Sidhu insisted on continuing his TV programme — a comedy show — despite being a minister, saying he needed the money.
After his dramatic resignation today, Sidhu vanished but, sources close to him say he did not want some MLAs close to Singh to be made ministers particularly Rana Gurjit Singh, who was earlier dropped as a minister by Singh when his name came up in an alleged mining scam in 2018.
Singh is the richest MLA in Punjab with declared assets of ₹170 crores. Sidhu is taking a high moral ground to say that he is fighting against corruption.
But, as I wrote earlier Channi as CM reduced Sidhu’s chances of becoming CM as the Congress couldn’t replace a Dalit post the elections if they won. The Congress was also in this dilemma as it said both Channi and Sidhu were its joint faces for the poll. This was anathema for Sidhu.
Watch this space
Even here Sidhu shot himself in the foot by opposing the candidature of a Jat Sikh Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, the same caste as Sidhu. Sidhu wanted veteran Congress woman leader Ambika Soni who turned down the job publicly.
Sidhu and Randhawa then opposed the appointment of Sunil Jhakhar. Finally Channi was a compromise candidate as Sidhu even then threatened to quit in a huff if Randhawa or Jhakhar were appointed.
Jhakhar publicly said that Channi should not be a token appointment. Rahul Gandhi also attended his swearing in to take credit for the appointment of a first Dalit CM.
So what next? Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi CM will be in Punjab for two days and his party is looking for a Sikh face in an election where they fancy their chances. Singh is in talks with the BJP and the Akali Dal is back in the game because of Sidhu’s antics.
Will the Gandhi family persuade him to withdraw his resignation? Sidhu is so unpredictable that he could even join AAP to become CM. The Congress electoral prospects are hurt. Watch this space.