With Congress president Sonia Gandhi cracking the whip by seeking the resignations of the local unit chiefs of the five states where the party lost elections this month, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Punjab wing faces a stiff challenge to find a new head and rejig itself.
What will make the job even tougher is the clamour within the party that traditional Congressmen should be given precedence in the selection after the stunning loss under Sidhu. The demands from local leaders are in sync with the statements by the so-called Group of 23 rebels, or G23, who have sought preference over turncoats while selecting the Pradesh Congress Commitee (PCC) chief.
The party, which has faced one of its worst-ever electoral performances, will have to balance out caste equations while finalising not just the state unit chief but the leader of the opposition (LoP) as well. “A balance will have to be struck between Jat, Hindu face, or an OBC candidate while going in for the selection on both the key posts,” said a leader.
Though proper consultations are yet to begin, some experienced leaders available with the party include Partap Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Tript Bajwa, Ravneet Bittu, Vijay Inder Singla, and Bharat Bhushan Ashu.
“We know that the party has hit rock bottom and needs to resurrect itself. One of the ways it can do it is by carrying out proper legwork before finalising who takes over from Sidhu. An experienced traditional hand can show the way for getting the party back on track,” a senior party leader said.
Also, what the party will have to focus on would be restructuring the state unit. “Despite Sidhu taking over, the basic issue was that the organisational structure seemed to be missing. That also needs to be built up to lift the morale of the party workers,” a leader from Malwa said.
The party has already begun consultations over the dismal performance in the polls. On Tuesday, a meeting of the losing and winning party candidates from Malwa region was held to discuss the results. Sources said that the leaders had apprised the high command that infighting among the top brass had demoralised the cadre and seniors were missing in action from the ground in the run-up to the polls. While some squarely blamed Charanjit Singh Channi, a few were also upset with Sidhu attacking the government during a crucial time ahead of polling.
Despite their differences contributing to the downfall of the government, both Sidhu and Channi continued to avoid each other publicly, making for bad optics. Both the leaders, who participated in the one-on-one meeting with Punjab affairs incharge Harish Choudhary, refused to talk to the media on being asked for the reasons behind the poll debacle.
The meeting had been called to go into the details of the embarrassing loss. On Wednesday, discussions with Doaba and Majha candidates have been scheduled.
With inputs from News18