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Can Rahul Gandhi use Punjab crisis to rebuild Congress?

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  • After the exit of Sidhu and Amarinder Singh, Rahul Gandhi now has a chance to build a stronger team in Punjab

Political Correspondent, Jaipur: Congress is facing an internal crisis in Punjab. Its top leaders, Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjyot Singh Sidhu, have stepped down from their respective positions as chief minister and state party president. While taking into account the lateral damages wrought by this upheaval, this situation does seem like a blessing in disguise for the grand old party.

Following the high-profile exits, Rahul Gandhi now has an opportunity to build a new team and bring a fresh perspective in Punjab ahead of the state elections. The high command should consider similar interventions in other ruling states as well and invest in young leaders to remain in contention.

“Both had doubtful loyalties. While Amarinder carries Shiromani Akali Dal past, Sidhu is a BJP-breakout. Had they been in Congress at top positions, their ego war would have caused more damage than any help to the party,” said a senior Congress leader. Sidhu has so far maintained that he will work for the party. However, Amarinder said in an interview on Thursday that while he will not join BJP, he won’t continue with Congress either after the “insult”.

 

Not the first time

This is not for the first time that the Congress or the Gandhi family is facing challenge from old guards. Even during the times of Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the party had faced such turmoil. But all of them dealt with it with an iron hand.

They made their own team and protected their interest and the future of the party. Indira did it at the cost of splitting the party in 1969 when old guards led by Congress leader K Kamraj opposed her leadership.

 

Rahul Gandhi must take tough calls

Rahul Gandhi is facing challenge mainly from those leaders who were patronised by his father Rajiv Gandhi. In the course, the party has already lost high-potential young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada to BJP.

The Congress and Rahul Gandhi cannot afford any more casualty just to appease senior leaders who don’t hold any future for the party. Even if it calls a complete overhaul, Rahul should do it as he has more than two years to build a fighting team before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

He will need fresh pairs of legs and innovative minds to take on the might of Narendra Modi whose popularity remains unaffected despite his team’s gross mishandling of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

 

BJP found a way out; Congress, too, can

The scuffle between the old and the young is not unique to Congress. Even BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced it. But their senior leaders like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi who posed threat to Modi’s leadership were sidelined. They were relegated to the seats of ‘respected’ members of Margdarshak Mandal with little or no relevance at all. Recently, BJP leaders again showed immaculate discipline during the transfer of power in Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.

Punjab will be a litmus test for Congress. The slate is clean after resignations of the two warring lords and awaits a fresh script. If the Congress manages to return to power in Punjab betting on Dalit votes, the party will definitely try more such experiments to gain lost political grounds.

 

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