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Beginning of end of Sidhu's political career?

By VIRENDRA KAPOOR
February 09, 2022 08:54 IST
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Having twice betrayed the BJP -- and Arvind Kejriwal determined not to admit in AAP anyone who could question his authority -- Sidhu seems to have reached a dead-end in his political career, asserts Virendra Kapoor.

IMAGE: Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu campaigns for the Punjab assembly elections in Amritsar, February 7, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

It is hard to see how the Punjab Congress can present a united face in the ongoing poll after incumbent Charanjit Singh Channi was named as the party's chief ministerial candidate, ignoring Navjot Singh Sidhu's strong claims.

Short of quitting the party mid-campaign, Sidhu, the Pradesh Congress president, can be relied on to make things difficult for Channi.

No longer able to avoid the potentially divisive leadership question, Rahul Gandhi ended the confusion over the party's chief ministerial candidate on February 6.

The fact that Channi is a Dalit seems to have settled the contest.

With more than 30 percent scheduled caste vote in Punjab, the Congress would hope that a section of Dalits would be enthused to vote for the first Dalit chief minister in Punjab.

And it was willing to risk the adverse reaction of Sidhu who, sensing loss, has already begun making snide remarks against the leadership.

Admittedly, there can be no questioning the electoral considerations in naming Channi as its face -- and fielding him from a second seat in the Dalit-dominated Malwa region -- but the Gandhi siblings cannot escape responsibility for failing to correctly size up Sidhu.

Had they cared to look at his record they would not have elevated the self-obsessed maverick to the post of Pradesh Congress chief and fuelled further his chief ministerial ambition.

Now, before he ups and deserts them, sooner than later, he is bound to make things hard both for them and Channi.

For, there is nothing in his politics that does not cry out betrayal, most self-centred that he is.

Fortunately for the Congress, the decision of Bikramjit Singh Majithia, Sukhbir Singh Badal's brother-in-law and a former Akali minister, to challenge Sidhu in the Amritsar East assembly seat, is bound to pin him down, leaving little time for him to sow confusion in the Congress ranks elsewhere.

Majithia has left his pocket borough of the Majithia constituency, which had elected him repeatedly with huge margins, for his wife to contest from while he tries to get the better of Sidhu whom he holds singularly responsible for the recent FIR accusing him of involvement in drug trafficking, a charge he vehemently denies.

It is interesting that Sidhu decided to pay obeisance at the Vaishnodevi shrine after Rahul Gandhi promised to announce the party's CM candidate.

By the time Sidhu returned from the pilgrimage he had got the inkling that the dice was loaded against him.

Immediately, he began to take pot shots at the Gandhis, saying the party leadership prefers to have a weak chief minister so that he can be remote controlled.

The hint of rebellion could not be clearer.

Having twice betrayed the BJP -- and Arvind Kejriwal determined not to admit in AAP any one ambitious who could question his authority -- Sidhu seems to have reached a dead end in his political career.

He can either float his own party and be ready for a long slog which may or may not yield success.

Or go back fulltime to his 'thoko taali hu-hi-hi-ha' routine on a comedy show -- and further grow his wealth from the current Rs 45 crores declared under the election law.

No other option seems available as of now to the cricketer-turned-politician.

***

The charade of oaths of loyalty in Goa

IMAGE: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi with party candidates for Goa assembly polls after they taking the 'pledge of loyalty' in Goa, February 4, 2022. Photograph: Courtesy INC/Twitter

What is with the oaths of allegiance and loyalty being administered in temples and at collective gatherings by various parties to their candidates ahead of the assembly poll in Goa?

After the BJP cobbled together a majority in the 2017 poll, luring away newly elected MLAs of the regional parties and the Congress, which had emerged the single largest group with 16 members to BJP's 13, Opposition parties are wary of the saffron party repeating the same ruse.

Therefore, the pre-poll administration of oaths of loyalty and much publicised visits to temples for swearing loyalty in presence of images of gods and goddesses to not betray the party post-victory.

Both the AAP and Congress have conducted these pre-poll rites of loyalty in the hope that winning candidates will not leave them in the lurch.

How much one can rely on these pledges of loyalty is a moot question.

In this day and age, brides and bridegrooms who do saat phere around agni in the presence of friends and family, committing to remain life-long loyal and faithful partners in wedlock, are known to soon part ways without showing any remorse.

Politicians winning elections after spending huge sums are unlikely to bother about such oaths when the opportunity comes to recover costs-plus profit post-election.

Mammon invariably trumps god these days, especially in the political world.

Lure of power and pelf proves too much to resist for the sake of old-fashioned loyalty.

Yes, the Congress has gone to the people as a victim of the BJP's opportunistic politics, appealing to voters to punish the incumbent for inducing its MLAs with the offer of ministerships and other unnamed goodies.

Yes, the BJP's sleight of hand last time when it turned a minority into majority with underhand means is an issue in the current campaign.

A good section of voters seems keen to penalise it for the theft of the mandate.

But, as we said at the beginning, should there be a hung assembly, -- which seems most likely this time too -- with no party getting 21 seats in a 40-member House, all bets will be off.

Regardless of the oaths of loyalty to the party and those publicised visits to temples to swear allegiance before god, the usual factors which have turned Goa into a playground for the 'aya ram, gaya ram' politics will come to the fore.

Even gods have to take a backseat to power and pelf.

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For some, the EC can never be right

The Election Commission's position is unenvious. As far as the Opposition is concerned, the EC can never be right.

For, if in the West Bengal election last year, it came for widespread criticism for allowing unrestricted campaigning when the second wave of the pandemic was at its peak, this time when the Omicron virus rages through the country, the EC curbs on public meetings and vehicular processions too are criticised.

In UP, the Samajwadi Party blames the EC for imposing the restrictions only to help the BJP.

Clearly, the EC can never win -- it gets the stick anyway whether or not it imposes precautionary curbs in view of the ongoing pandemic.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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