HomeIndia NewsWhy Sidhu's appointment could be a subtle warning to Ashok Gehlot |...

Why Sidhu’s appointment could be a subtle warning to Ashok Gehlot | India News

NEW DELHI: The Congress leadership, which has appeared weak and often dithered in reacting strongly to dissidence, surprised everyone with its decisive stand in handling infighting in the Punjab unit.
The appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as Punjab Congress chief despite very strong and open opposition from chief minister Amarinder Singh, who wields immense clout in the state, is a clear signal to those who are not willing to toe the line of party’s leadership.
The announcement of Sidhu’s elevation came on a day Congress MPs of Punjab and a section of MLAs were openly rallying in favour of Amarinder Singh.
This showed the determination with which the top party leadership acted in the case.
With the Congress facing infighting in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the message from Punjab will surely be heard loud and clear by the leaders in these two states.
In Rajasthan, chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who managed to ward off the challenge by his detractor Sachin Pilot, would be watching the Punjab developments very closely.
Gehlot had his way last year when Sachin Pilot revolted against him and went incommunicado for several days with his loyalists. The Congress leadership eventually managed to convince Pilot to stay with the party after promising to bring about changes in Rajasthan Congress to address his grievances.
There have been occasional statements from the Pilot camp about the neglect that he faces in the state Congress.
But what should worry Gehlot more is a retweet by Ajay Maken, who is the in charge of Rajasthan Congress.
Maken retweeted a tweet that questioned the attitude of chief ministers such as Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot and the late Sheila Dikshit after electoral victory.
The original tweet by a journalist pointed out that as soon as such leaders become chief ministers, they start believing the party won because of them.
The tweet said, “No leader wins on his own. The votes of the poor and weaker section are given in the name of the Nehru and Gandhi family. However, no matter if it is Amarinder Singh or Gehlot or Sheila or anyone else! As soon as they become the chief minister, they start thinking that the party won because of them.”
The tweet went on to say that “Sonia Gandhi, who was party president for more than 20 years, never highlighted her own achievements. As a result, she was the one bringing in the votes, however, Congressmen continued working irresponsibly” believing that the victories were “their miracles”.
The tweet also made the point that if the party lost somewhere, “the blame was put on Rahul Gandhi”. But if the party won, the chief ministers put up “the face of victory on their own foreheads”.
It concludes by saying: “The leadership did the right thing by anointing Sidhu as Punjab PCC chief. It was necessary to show strength.”
Clearly, Gehlot would be hoping that this new show of strength by the Congress leadership does not reach his state.
So, when Ashok Gehlot congratulated Sidhu over his elevation, he hoped that the new Punjab Congress chief would take everybody along as per the Congress tradition.
Ironically, this is something he hasn’t been able to do in Rajasthan.
The other Congress state which faces leadership tussle is Chhattisgarh.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel recently met party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and after the meeting said, “when the high command asks that someone else should be made chief minister, it will be done as per their wish.”
State’s health minister TS Singh Deo, whose supporters are pushing for change of leadership in the state, has maintained that the issue of Chhattisgarh chief ministership is to be decided by the Congress leadership and party President Sonia Gandhi.
Sharing the CM’s post on a rotational basis has been a buzz in Chhattisgarh’s political circles after Congress came to power in December 2018 when Baghel and his two senior cabinet colleagues TS Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu were the leading contenders for the CM post.
When Baghel took oath as chief minister on December 17, 2018, Deo and Sahu had sworn in as cabinet ministers. Speculations were rife that consensus was built for the CM’s post based on a two-and-a-half-year power-sharing formula between Baghel and Deo.
When asked about the purported arrangement for the rotational chief ministership in the state, Baghel said, “You keep asking this question, the reply will be given and every time the answer will be the same…The party high command has given this responsibility, and if the high command orders to vacate, then I will do so.”
“Media people ask this question again and again and every time the answer remains the same. Two plus two will always be four. It will neither be more than it nor less than it. Every time you ask I will give the same reply.”
A reported disagreement over the size of Lemru elephant reserve in northern Chhattisgarh brought to fore the differences between the different groups in the ministry.
In August 2019, the Congress government had decided to develop Lemru elephant reserve in northern Chhattisgarh in an area of 1,995.48 sq km and authorised the forest department for further action.
However, a row erupted over the size of the reserve after a letter written by the forest department on June 26 came to light.
The letter, written by the under secretary of the state’s forest and climate change department to the principal chief conservator of forest (Wildlife), stated that seven Congress MLAs and health minister T S Singh Deo wanted the area of the Lemru elephant reserve to be restricted to 450 sq km.
The letter further said that eight legislators, including minister Singh Deo, have urged the department not to extend the Lemru elephant reserve beyond 450 square km citing public sentiments.
Singh Deo on June 30 wrote a letter to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel rejecting the forest department’s claims and said he had never asked to reduce the area of the reserve to 450 sq km.
However, another Congress MLA Vinay Jaiswal, whose name also featured in the forest department letter, told news agency PTI that he had sought reduction in the elephant reserve area.
Infighting is also rampant in the Haryana unit of the Congress, where supporters of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda have stepped up pressure to remove Kumari Selja as the state president and appoint him to the post.
Sources say the former chief minister wants free hand in the state affairs and also is upset with growing clout of Randeep Singh Surjewala.



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