Navjot Singh Sidhu’s impending appointment as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) could mean he would be Captain Amarinder Singh’s successor and maybe the Chief Minister of the state sometime in the future if the Congress wins in 2022 in Punjab.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s media advisor on Thursday said Singh “will lead the party to victory in the 2022 polls as he did in 2017”, implying that 79-year-old Singh is in no mood to hang his boots. The party is going into the elections with Singh as the CM but Sidhu’s probable appointment as the PPCC Chief clears the succession path for the party in Punjab as the High Command does see Sidhu as the “future”. Who becomes the CM also depends on whom the majority of MLAs support, which is presently enjoyed by Captain Amarinder Singh.
There are latest precedents in the Congress of PCC Chiefs becoming the CMs if a majority of the winning MLAs back the person, which is sometimes the case as the PCC Chief has a major say in deciding tickets. In fact, before the 2017 assembly elections in Punjab in a similar set of circumstances, Captain Amarinder Singh had forced the Congress High Command to appoint him as the PPCC Chief replacing Partap Singh Bajwa, his known detractor. Singh got the post and later Rahul Gandhi also announced him as the CM face just on the eve of the elections. Now, Sidhu seems to be forcing the High Command’s hand to extend him the same favour.
In 2019, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel were the PCC Chiefs in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh when the states went to polls and later became CMs when the party won. Kamal Nath was also made PCC Chief just before the elections replacing Arun Yadav. Jyotiraditya Scindia had pitched to be made PCC chief and be declared as the CM face but the party chose Nath, who ultimately was also the choice of the majority of the MLAs for the CM chair too. Nath remained the PCC chief along with being CM, that led to Scindia leaving the party ultimately.
Bhupesh Baghel trumped TS Singh Deo to the CMs chair also on the virtue of being the PCC chief and majority MLAs supporting him.
The one place this did not happen was in Rajasthan where PCC Chief Sachin Pilot was not made the CM as former CM Ashok Gehlot commanded the support of more MLAs. Pilot had in face cited the examples of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to the Congress High Command to make his case of becoming the CM but was overruled and instead given the Deputy CM post. Later, Gehlot ensured Pilot had to be dropped both as Deputy CM as well as the PCC Chief.
The Punjab case seems to match more with Rajasthan where a senior colleague trumped the PCC chief to the CM chair ultimately.
These precedents are why Sidhu’s appointment as PPCC Chief, when it is announced, will escalate the tiff in the Congress in Punjab as Captain Amarinder Singh does not want to hang his boots yet and both leaders would want their loyalists to get maximum tickets to support their case for the CMs chair if the party wins. While the Congress wants both leaders to work together for a win in Punjab, the CM and the new probable PPCC may well work at cross-ends.