Throwing caution to the wind, interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi overruled chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to make Navjot Singh Sidhu (in pic) the chief of the party’s Punjab unit. The decision follows Sidhu’s flagrant public display of disaffection towards Singh for months. Sidhu’s elevation marks a significant departure from Sonia’s hitherto practice of accommodating concerns of Congress satraps while making key organisational appointments. It signals an aggressive resolve, electoral risks notwithstanding, of the high command—Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi—to brandish authority anew over regional strongmen.
For months, the Congress’s central leadership was clamouring for an amicable resolution to the conflict. But what started off as a rebellion by leaders, including Sidhu, against Singh’s working style and his government’s alleged unfulfilled poll promises had, in recent weeks, narrowed down to a clash of two personalities. Sidhu was adamant on being made the party’s chief in Punjab, a proposition Singh opposed resolutely. Singh even shot off an angry letter to Sonia cautioning her that Sidhu’s appointment may split the party ahead of assembly polls due early next year. A chunk of Congress MLAs and 10 of the party’s 12 MPs from Punjab, several of them bitter critics of the CM until recently, backed Singh’s case against Sidhu.