How To Lose A State After Sweeping It, Congress Style?

The bitter factional fights in the state unit have been out in the open for several months and go against the Congress’ claims of unity.

If there could ever be a lesson on how to lose a state after sweeping it, the Punjab Congress story can provide a good template.

For the rivals, the tale can be a guide on how not to avoid the mistakes.

The story of Punjab Congress over the past five years is full of contrasts. The party swept the 2017 assembly polls, winning 77 of the total 117 seats.

The victory was achieved single-handedly by party veteran Amarinder Singh, who defeated the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine that had ruled the state for two terms from 2007.

Amarinder Singh became the chief minister while SAD was reduced to 15 seats and BJP just three.

Though the 2022 assembly elections are still a few months away, there is little doubt that the ruling Congress is approaching the electoral contest as a divided team.

The bitter factional fights in the state unit have been out in the open for several months and go against the Congress’ claims of unity.

Amarinder Singh, who was forced to resign as chief minister, has decided to leave the Congress. The veteran had to leave following his public feud with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was made state unit chief against the Captain’s wishes.

However, days after getting the top party post, Sidhu too resigned as he was upset over certain appointments made by the new chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

Minister Razia Sultana and two other party officials also quit in support of Sidhu to put pressure on Channi, who showed patience and tried to placate a miffed state unit chief even as the central leadership mulled replacing Navjot with either Ravneet Singh Bittu or Kuljit Singh Nagra.

The sum total of events that unfolded over the past few months showed the Congress in a poor light and the negative messaging would certainly pose a big challenge for Channi to ensure a party victory.

That’s unfortunate for the Congress, which appeared to have an advantage over its rivals, despite a natural anti-incumbency, till March but is now sliding, as claimed by Amarinder.

Since 2020, Singh led the party’s initiative against the three contentious central farm laws, passed three state laws to negate them and even staged a protest at Jantar Mantar to flag the issue.

The Congress support to the farm protests over the three laws had forced the rival SAD to quit the Union government and back the peasants.

The support extended to the farmers helped the Congress do well in the local body polls in February this year and contributed to the general perception that the Congress had an advantage over its rivals in the run up to the 2022 polls.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, seen close aid of Gandhi siblings rebelled against the Chief Minister


However, Navjot Singh Sidhu rebelled against Amarinder Singh and launched a twitter campaign against the chief minister, changing the course of events.

Sidhu and several party lawmakers then stepped up their campaign against the chief minister and asked the central leadership to replace Amarinder as they feared that the Congress may not be able to retain power under the veteran.

After several rounds of charges and counter charges, the central leadership finally decided to continue with Amarinder as the chief minister but promoted Sidhu as state unit chief against the CM’s wishes.

Many in the party hoped the compromise formula would put an end to infighting but peace in the state unit turned out to be short-lived as the Sidhu-Singh verbal duels continued unabated and forced the central leadership to go in for surgery.

A meeting of party lawmakers was called suddenly, without the knowledge of the chief minister, where the plan was the remove Amarinder and elect a new chief minister.

Amarinder sensed the coup being planned against him and resigned hours before the meeting of lawmakers. Yet, the story of his public humiliation was all over.

Ex- Chief Minister

The manner in which the veteran was removed, not the change of guard itself, could cost the party dear in the next year’s elections.

Amarinder Singh, a scion of the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, is a mass leader and the support that he can rally against the Congress could hurt the ruling party.

Though the former chief minister met with Union home minister Amit Shah and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval citing security concerns in the border state, the meetings led to speculation that he may moving towards the saffron party.

Though Singh denied he was joining the BJP, he may float a separate outfit and could still harm the Congress.

Singh had been against Sidhu right from the day the former cricketer left the BJP to join the Congress in 2017. Amarinder scuttled Sidhu’s bid to become deputy chief minister in 2017 but agreed to make him a minister.

However, the two soon developed differences which led to Sidhu quitting the government in 2019.

Soon after Sidhu quit as state unit chief, Amarinder called him unstable and unfit for the post of state Congress chief.

Singh accused the Congress leadership of “humiliating” him.



Since March, the Congress simply watched the infighting erupt and take an ugly turn in Punjab. The response to the problem was delayed and when taken, turned out to be questionable as it hasn’t served the desired purpose.

Though the ruling party installed Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit-Sikh, as chief minister in a smart move to counter Sidhu as well as the rival parties, the new head of the government has little time to implement welfare policies.

Though Channi has reached out to Sidhu and may even reverse some of his earlier appointments, their journey over the next few months may not be smooth.

The Congress has formed a panel to coordinate between the government and the party unit but it remains to be seen if the measure can ensure peace.

ChanranJit Channi
Congress appointed Charanjit Singh Channi as the first Dalit Sikh CM of Punjab


Advantage AAP???

The Aam Aadmi Party, which had emerged as the main opposition party in 2017 with 20 seats, lost no time to fish in troubled waters. Party founder and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal rushed to Punjab and claimed that only his party can bring all-round development in the state.

The AAP also faced 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, had joined the Congress in the presence of Amarinder in June.

Kejriwal’s AAP has been trying to capitalize on the emerging political instability in the state



After parting ways with the BJP in 2020, the SAD joined hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party in June this year to woo the 32 percent Dalit votes in Punjab.

The SAD-BSP too hopes to benefit from the Congress turmoil and the ongoing farmers agitation.

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