Eye On 2022 Polls, Congress Firefights To Curb Rebellion In Punjab

On his part, Amarinder has reiterated he is committed to fulfilling all poll promises before 2022 and is open to pacifying the rebels.

The timing of the Punjab crisis blowing up and reaching New Delhi could not have been worse for Congress.

At a time when the party should be working out strategies for the 2022 Punjab assembly elections, the managers are busy firefighting to quell dissent among the lawmakers.

Two issues have emerged as reasons why several Congress lawmakers chose to rebel against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, considered to be a popular leader in the northern state.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu

Besides the political ambitions of former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who pitches himself against the chief minister, the alleged inaction in a case involving desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, has been worrying the Congress MLAs.

Amarinder and Sidhu, a former BJP leader who joined the Congress before the 2017 assembly polls, have been at daggers drawn since.

Sidhu, an MLA from East Amritsar, hoped to become deputy CM but his plans were scuttled by Amarinder. Later, Sidhu quit the cabinet in 2019 after he was divested of his charge of the local bodies department. Over the past months, Sidhu has been waging a Twitter war against the CM.

Recently, they clashed over a Punjab and Haryana High Court order that quashed an SIT report into the Guru Granth Sahib desecration case and asked the state to set up a new team.

Violence unfolded in the state after the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib


The probe related to the 2015 Kotkapura firing incident which took place during the protests against the desecration of the holy book in Faridkot district.

When Sidhu demanded justice in the case, Amarinder blasted him for alleged indiscipline, accused him of being an Aam Aadmi Party agent, and even challenged the rebel leader to contest polls against him from Patiala.

Amarinder belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Patiala and has been representing the constituency for a long time.

Incidentally, the present crisis had been building up in the state for some time but did not get the attention of the high command which recently set up a three-member panel to talk to the disgruntled elements and resolve the matter peacefully.

The panel, headed by Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge comprises Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat and a former member of Parliament from Delhi JP Aggarwal.

Many of the Congress lawmakers who briefed the panel, said that Congress came to power on the promise of taking action against those guilty in the sacrilege issue but the state government had put the case on the back burner.

The sacrilege issue, which had surfaced in 2015, had severely dented the electoral prospects of the then ruling Shiromani Akali Dal government in 2017.

Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal


The Congress dissenters have pointed out that if ignored, the sacrilege case could be exploited by the SAD leaders who have been looking for an emotional issue to target the grand old party.

If infighting in the Punjab unit is not resolved quickly, it may lead to frittering away of the gains that the Congress had made in the local body polls in February this year.

The victory in municipal polls was a result of the pro-farmer stand taken by Congress against the three controversial agriculture laws passed by the BJP-led central government in the middle of 2020.

The farm protests had made headlines as thousands of peasants, including women, camped at the borders of Delhi for months braving the cold.

The anger against the central laws among the peasants of Punjab was so widespread that even the SAD, which had been BJP’s long-term ally, had to quit the NDA alliance as well as give up its sole ministerial berth at the Centre, to be seen with the farmers.

Though the Sidhu camp would press for a leadership change, removing Amarinder might be suicidal for Congress at this point as the move would send a wrong signal among the voters.

Amarinder has a popular recall among the electorate and was single-handedly responsible for the party’s 2017 poll win when Congress was able to end the decade-long rule of the Akali-BJP combine. The rebel MLAs have noted they are not so sure about a 2022 win and, therefore, are pressing for a course correction.

Among the other issues flagged by the MLAs is the lack of Dalit representation in the government and the shortage of funds for the development of their constituencies. These concerns can be addressed by naming a deputy CM from the Dalit community and sanctioning additional funds to pacify the lawmakers.

Also Read: “Lust For Power Amid Covid-19 Will Lead To Anarchy”: Uddhav Thackeray

On his part, Amarinder has reiterated he is committed to fulfilling all poll promises before 2022 and is open to pacifying the rebels. Yet, how Sidhu, who also has flagged the need to distribute resources among the people of the state and provide jobs to youth, will be accommodated remains to be seen.

Hints are he may be named a deputy CM or given a key party role.

Sidhu is a popular leader who had played an important role in the opening of the Kartarpur corridor when he spoke to his friend and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan even as Amarinder cited security concerns.

While Amarinder is considered a Gandhi family loyalist and has a good rapport with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Sidhu is in the good books of both former party chief Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The seriousness with which the Kharge panel is trying to resolve the present crisis shows how important Punjab is for the party.

It is one of three big states where the Congress rules at present and has a fair chance of returning to power next year, provided the grand old party is able to put up a united front. The Congress faces challenges from the SAD, the BJP, and the AAP, which had emerged as the main opposition in the 2017 polls.

But the AAP is also facing rebellion. Former Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira, along with two other party MLAs Jagdev Singh Kamala and Pirmal Singh Dhaula, joined the Congress in the presence of Amarinder, a day before he met the Kharge-led panel in Delhi.

After parting ways with the BJP, SAD had been exploring ties with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and the two parties may have a pact for the 2022 polls.

The BJP, which had been a junior partner of the SAD, is in a disarray over the farm protests.

Dear Readers,
As an independent media platform, we do not take advertisements from governments and corporate houses. It is you, our readers, who have supported us on our journey to do honest and unbiased journalism. Please contribute, so that we can continue to do the same in future.

Related posts