Capt Amarinder Singh’s unceremonious exit as the Punjab Chief Minister is a new low for the self-destructive Congress. It’s inexplicable that a party with an ever-dwindling national footprint is bent on frittering away its few gains in the states. Sheer mishandling of the situation by the high command has destabilised the state government and triggered chaos in Punjab, which will go to the polls in barely five months. The gross failure to tackle the crisis and take timely remedial action has severely dented the party’s electoral prospects, and that too at a time when the main Opposition parties — the Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party — are desperately trying to regroup and regain the electorate’s trust.
The party stirred a hornets’ nest two months ago when it elevated Navjot Singh Sidhu as the PPCC chief, overruling objections by Capt Amarinder. If the top brass had wanted Sidhu to be the CM face, it should have made things clear right from the outset. Giving Sidhu carte blanche to take potshots at the CM was an invitation to disaster. The feeble, unconvincing attempts to bring about a patch-up between Capt Amarinder and Sidhu only made things worse.
The high command’s lackadaisical approach can be gauged from the fact that it set up the election manifesto implementation committee in Punjab as late as January 2020, almost three years after Capt Amarinder led the party to a thumping victory in 2017. If misgovernance and the failure to fulfil poll promises were the all-important issues, course correction should have been done much earlier, not at the eleventh hour when the party needs all hands on deck. Now, it would be naive of the Congress to consider Punjab as a low-hanging fruit. The party will have to go back to the drawing board to gear up for the 2022 elections. The state leaders have already expended too much time and energy on political intrigue and one-upmanship. With the Congress’ credibility in tatters, it will be an uphill task for the grand old party to retain power.