Change of guard in Punjab Congress unfolds how Gandhi siblings are taking over state party affairs

Sources say that the PPCC chief Sidhu may not get absolute power

Change of guard in Punjab Congress unfolds how Gandhi siblings are taking over state party affairs

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi with Sunil Jakhar at Chandigarh airport on way to Delhi.

Rajmeet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 23

As the political drama unfolds in Punjab Congress, leading to climax of “anytime” announcement of CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s new Council of Ministers, telltale signs of micro-management or taking over the affairs of the party and the state government by Gandhi siblings are emerging.

Also read: Speculation as Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka, Sunil Jakhar leave for Delhi

From writing the script of “rebel” against former CM Capt Amarinder Singh to creating parallel power centre against him by elevating Navjot Singh sidhu as state party head to close monitoring of selection of Channi as CM and his Council of Ministers, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi seem to be in the saddle.

They are working through their trusted lieutenants like Harish Chaudhary, with valuable inputs from political strategist Prashant Kishore, trying to recast the Punjab Congress minus Capt Amarinder Singh to ensure victory in the Assembly election.

The behind-the-scenes work in selection of Channi as CM, contrary to demands to put up a Jat face, also indicates long-term planning by the Gandhis.

As a party leader says the party’s central leadership never wants a state head to be an autonomous power, as a tall leader like Capt Amarinder Singh appeared to be.

As the happenings in Delhi suggest, the central leadership comprising KC Venugopal, Harish Chaudhry, Harish Rawat and Ambika Soni are briefing the Gandhis on the profile of each candidate being considered for the Cabinet berth.

Brainstorming has been going in Delhi to consider a blend of experience and young faces that could correct the negative narrative of the Amarinder government and arrest the anti-incumbency. Criteria like age factor, performance of the ministers in the Amarinder government and allegation of corruption are bound to be the factors in the selection of the Council of Ministers.

The faces selected in the new Cabinet could be claimants in the new government if the Congress manages to win the 2022 Assembly election.

After taking inputs from Channi, his two deputies and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the central leadership is independently deciding on the names.

That is why Amarinder has ridiculed the way Punjab is being run from Delhi now. He has expressed shock at the way things are happening. Pointing out that as CM, he had called the shots and appointed his own ministers, as he knew the capability of each of them, he questioned how Congress leaders like Venugopal or Ajay Maken or Randeep Surjewala could decide who is good for which ministry.

Contrary to perception that after replacing Amarinder, Sidhu would take over, reports from sources say that the PPCC chief may not get absolute power and checks and balances are being put in place on Sidhu by the Gandhis to ensure absolute power does not stay with one person.

The appointment of Channi as CM, a Dalit face, and the challenge for Sidhu to counter the pro-Dalit narrative in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly elections shows the behind-the-scene work by the Gandhi siblings.

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