With the appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as PCC chief, the Gandhis have made it clear that they are the boss. While the Gandhis had already made up their mind about Sidhu, they were hesitant for a moment on seeing the strong stand taken by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who made it clear that he would not meet Sidhu till the latter apologises to him.
Sources say Sonia Gandhi was rattled and wondered if she should postpone a decision but when Partap Singh Bajwa held a meeting with Punjab MPs in an attempt to show eyes to the top leadership, the die was cast and Sidhu was finally appointed PCC chief in a late-night declaration.
The Gandhis realised that if they backtracked this time after having made up their mind on Sidhu as Congress chief, their already shaky grip over the party would be shook further.
The Captain has made it clear he would be no pushover and hence, had some tough talk with Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat. The four working presidents have been carefully chosen — not only do they get the regional balance right, but most of them are close to Rahul Gandhi.
After having taken on the veteran in Punjab, all eyes now are on whether the Gandhis will push for a generational change and younger leaders. First comes to mind Rajasthan where Sachin Pilot and his supporters have been watching the Punjab developments closely. The fact that the Gandhis mustered courage to take on veteran Congressman Amarinder Singh to appoint a relatively younger leader overruling his objections will be used by Pilot’s supporters to ask why the Gandhis are scared of Ashok Gehlot.
When Congress won in Rajasthan, it did not make PCC chief Sachin Pilot the chief minister, citing the fact that Gehlot was senior, had support of more MLAs and the PCC chief need not become the CM. The real reason, however, was a worry that ignoring Gehlot could mean the Gandhis lose the state.
Pilot was placated and promised that his time would come. But the rebellion couldn’t be averted and soon enough, Pilot and his supporters parked themselves in Delhi. Once again, the Gandhis intervened to buy peace and Pilot was promised that his concerns would be met. It has been more than six months now and Pilot’s supporters are restless.
However, developments in Punjab give them hope that the Gandhis could flex their muscle in the state and take on another powerful veteran — Gehlot. The Gandhis have been losing elections, one after another, and this has loosened their grip over the party. Many young leaders have quit the party, nurturing their ambitions, and some veterans feel that with the Gandhi siblings taking charge, they could be eased out further.
With the Punjab decision, Gandhis have underlined the clout they have. Ignoring the difference of opinion of the local leadership to appoint Sidhu is a huge gamble but now all eyes are on whether they can show the same risk in Rajasthan as well as other states where younger leaders are waiting for their turn.
Karnataka is another state which is showing restlessness as it heads for polls soon with a battle brewing between DK Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah. As Shivakumar has the support of Rahul Gandhi, the question arises if he will be projected as the new leader after his appointment as PCC chief.
It’s clear that with Rahul and Priyanka increasingly calling the shots, they want the younger ones to take over the party. Punjab was the testing ground where they made it clear that should Congress win the 2022 polls, the chief minister could be someone other than Captain.
Punjab could be the cue for other states as well. So will it be DK Shivakumar over Siddaramaih in Karnataka? Randeep Surjewala or Kumari Selja over Bhupinder Hooda in Haryana? Will the search begin for younger faces, with the Gandhis beginning to ease out seniors and powerful veterans for younger faces? While Punjab may have just been the beginning, all eyes are now on Rajasthan which could just as well seal the grip of the Gandhis.
With inputs from News18