Amarinder Singh with Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with Rahul Gandhi | Photo: @capt_amarinder | Twitter
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The Haryana and Maharashtra assembly election results show that Rahul Gandhi must not stand in the way of strong and popular regional leaders in the Congress party. One such leader is Captain Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab.

It’s no surprise that Rahul Gandhi’s charisma was bludgeoned to oblivion by the Modi magic that has gripped India since 2014. However, among the leaders of the Congress and the opposition, the only one who could never be trolled, dismissed, disrespected or ignored is the heir of the erstwhile Maharaja of Patiala, Captain Amarinder Singh.

The Congress has had a history of not allowing regional leaders to play a national role. The Gandhi family’s hold over the party has acted as a glass ceiling for many charismatic local leaders. This is also why so many regional variants emerged over time – many led by disillusioned leaders from the party. But times are changing. The family doesn’t have the political cache that it once had. So, the family can play two roles – one, as a glue of the party; and two, as the talent-spotter of the party.

Haryana’s impressive results for the Congress party is largely due to Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s command over the voters. This holds an important lesson for the party. Not all is lost. Having been defeated in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it can start making amends now.


Also read: Bhupinder Singh Hooda fought a two-pronged battle, within Congress and against BJP


The leader Congress didn’t give a chance

Captain Amarinder Singh is one such leader that the Congress party missed out on giving a national role. He was the nationalist leader who the Congress could’ve pitched as a trump card to give competition to the Bhartiyata sentiment that propelled Narendra Modi, who has stirred the idea of a “New” India bordering on jingoism, to the corridors of power. Captain Amarinder Singh speaks nationalism but his style and demeanour are poles apart from Narendra Modi.

Amarinder Singh has always spoken for the idea of the nation first, which is why he never warmed up to yesteryear cricketer and BJP turncoat Navjot Singh Sidhu who became a little too friendly with Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit where he raised the Kartarpur corridor case. Captain Amarinder Singh took no time to reprimand Sidhu, then cabinet minister, by saying that as someone who has served in the Indian Army once, he or any Indian “will not tolerate anyone hugging the Pakistan army chief.”

The role of the armed forces during the Balakot airstrikes and the resulting tsunami of adulation that PM Narendra Modi received proved Amarinder Singh’s point. This explains why on the day of the 2019 Lok Sabha election results, the Punjab CM categorically stated that the Congress has to pay for Navjot Singh Sidhu’s show in Pakistan.

And it is here that Captain Amarinder Singh scores more points than Narendra Modi. Besides being a seasoned politician, he has served in the Army. When he talks for the Army and its pride, it’s not mere lip-service to score brownie points during election season.

Just like Narendra Modi, he also fits the bill of an iron-fisted leader, who feels right to the people of India since they are constantly reminded of being unfairly occupied by Muslims from Central Asia and then the British. But here too, Captain Amarinder Singh looks more compassionate than Narendra Modi.

After the dilution of Article 370 on 5 August, it was a leader like Amarinder Singh who walked a tightrope by aligning with the party line of speaking against the Modi government’s move in Jammu and Kashmir. But he had the wisdom to emphasise on the unconstitutionality of the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir instead of the removal of the special status. His government went on to ban any protests or celebrations in Punjab over this decision. He also hosted Kashmiri students living in Punjab on Eid and established himself as a leader who is sensitive and capable of taking tough decisions.


Also read: Congress should allow local leadership to develop: Sachin Pilot


The lesson for Congress

Narendra Modi has often been criticised for his acerbic comments on his opponents, for example calling Sonia Gandhi a “jersey cow”, Mamata Banerjee “speed breaker didi” or calling his dissenters “urban Naxals”.

His critics say such remarks don’t behove a Prime Minister. You’ll hardly ever catch Singh using an ill-willed word against his peers, no matter how bitter the political atmosphere becomes.

During the release of the movie Avengers: End Game, the Akalis decided to throw shade at Amarinder Singh by trending the hashtag “RajeDa Endgame”. In a Facebook post, Shiromani Akali Dal claimed that the CM was the “Thanos” of Punjab and that his “endgame” was imminent.

Later, Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal even blamed him for disrespecting the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, by making a parallel stage to mark the 550th ‘Parkash Purb’. Amarinder Singh walked away from such insinuations with a simple statement like: “She (Badal) has no scruples, none of the Akalis have.”

The Congress should realise that maintaining strong leadership in the party is central to its success and that a repeat of Sonia Gandhi nominating anyone from the party, like Manmohan Singh, as the PM candidate is a cheque that can be cashed only once.

India is now only voting for a leader that commands his or her party, whichever it may be. We are no longer voting for the BJP, we are voting for “Modi ji”.

India has a parliamentary election system, but people are voting presidential-style. That’s the reality the Congress must accept.


Also read: Milind Deora isn’t alone. In post-Rahul Congress, gen-next stars struggling as politicians


Captain Amarinder Singh could be a saving grace at fraught times like these for the Congress party – a popular regional leader with strong nationalist credentials.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. HAD NOT THE THE THEN CAG PLAYED THE BJP’S CAT’S PAW BY QUOTING ASTRONOMICAL FIGURES OF NOTIONAL & FICTITIOUS LOSSES , WHICH ARE KIND OF ETCHED IN THE MINDS OF THE IGNORAMUS PUBLIC , THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NO MODI OR THE BJP. THE IGNORAMUS PUBLIC MUST ASK QUESTIONS AS TO HOW MUCH MONEY HAS ACTUALLY ACCRUED TO THE EXCHEQUER THROUGH AUCTIONS OF SPECTRUM ,COAL AND OTHER RESOURCES SINCE 2014 . INDIA’S PUBLIC SEEM TO HAVE FORGOTTEN THAT THE THEN LOKAYUKTA OF KARNATAKA HAD REPORTED THAT LOSSES TO KARNATAKA ON ACCOUNT OF ILLEGAL MINING IN THE “REPUBLIC “OF BALLARY UNDER THE BJP WAS A LAKH CRORE OF RUPEES . DESPITE MINING SCAMS OF GOA,CHATTISGARH, MP AND BALLARY IF THE BJP HAS PROJECTED ITSELF AS AN “HONEST “PARTY ONE MUST IMAGINE THE CREDULITY OF THE VOTING PUBLIC , WHO CANNOT BE ACCUSED OF A MODICUM OF DISCERNMENT . MAY BE THE PUBLIC WANT ECONOMY TO SINK FURTHER UNDER MODI BEFORE THEY VOTE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE FORMATION!

  2. It is totally pointless to even think of a Congress where the Amarindar Singhs are given prominence, which will NECESSARILY expose the scion and rob him of any of importance. “The Family” will prevent it and, the other leaders will resent it. Congress will remain under the thumb of Sonia or Rahul, and, wither away as a result.

  3. The print is always before Gandhi Family.Why? It’s very clear that your intention is not to help Congress. Please don’t try to mislead the reader. We the people of lndia are ever ready to change mind as and when needed. Gandhi family is the only trustworthy and reliable one in all over India.They sacrificed for us.we know that well. It’s the art of selling dreams that wins now. There will come the U- turn soon . Wait a little.

    • “Family” loyalists like you are the people doing real harm to the Congress. You may believe you are its well wisher. But actually, your arguments are the very factors for its slide.

  4. Anyone who can bring down Modi, is welcome as far as the author is concerned. And she expects the Hindus to be secular till their death, and Muslims to be Muslims all the time.

    • Exactly, she is a closet jihadi if one sees her twitter account. Why is the print gives space to this jihadi stooge of Congress? She along with Vij are liability to the print.

  5. calling Sonia Gandhi a “jersey cow”. This is no derogatory remarks because such cows are very well appreciated for their prowess of giving milk. Sonia never gives anything, she just takes and takes everything this country has to offer. She and her children, not to mention that monkey Vadra, just loot the country whenever they get a chance.

  6. The entire Gandhi clan is an eyesore and is the main handicap for the party. And at teh same time, without them, the party will break and a host of regional parties will emerge. Everybody would like to be seen as a leader.

  7. Sonia, Rahul & the Priyanka family hate strong leaders like Amarinder, Hooda, Sachin Pilot, J Scindia etc etc because they can become a future threat to the Family’s Prime Ministerial ambitions. They prefer sycophants than leaders who can win elections

  8. Congress is the party of the people
    It is better to leave the party at that. No leader of any political standing is likely to convert the party to the likes of BJP nor it is desirable in national interest.
    The likes of Amarinder singh have to use the party forum and search alternatives. PEOPLE are matured and no significant erosion in vote share is observed .If BJP is allowed to dominate politics for 70 years with the will of the people Congress supporters should not get disheartened.atbest few political stalwarts may move towards the winning party’s ideology.

  9. You People Started to give advice to Gandhi Family. Please save your energy. Because it may be required in the near future for Modi and Amith Shah. 2019 Election Why Mr.Hoodas Lost . Now have they become Local Supreme Leaders? It was because Journalists Like you might have advised Mr.Rahul not to attack Government on pulwama. He had accepted we know now the Fate. So you Journalists are not having any knowledge about the way people of india really thinks. Why Donot you Show your advise to Mr.ARNAB, Mrs.NAVIKA KUMAR, Mr.BHUPENDRA Etc. on a thing called real journalism. Why i am giving you these suggestions because people loosing their faith and interest in media and one day you people will become irrelevant species on the earth

  10. The 2019 elections were won by Modi because he managed to mislead voters on Pulwama terror attack. People like Hooda are opportunists & for all you know saboteurs. The way Amarinder Singh, who has a Akali background, haa treated Sidhu for opposing Badals is a warning bell.

  11. One says this absolutely without malice or rancour. The Gandhi family is all that stands in the way of the natural regeneration of the Congress party, both nationally and in several states – including Maharashtra – where it remains a serious player. Given the stranglehold the Gandhis have exercised over the party, they cannot remain in some kind of Professor Emeritus role. A clean break, retiring to the hills.

    • UNDER SONIA GANDHI EVEN A WHISPER AGAINST CONGRESS LEADERS WAS ACTED UPON- RECALL HOW VILASRAO DESHMUKH, ASHOK CHAVAN( HE WAS EXONERATED BY THE HIGHEST COURT), BANSAL WERE MADE TO RESIGN ON MERE ALLEGATIONS- WHILE MODI-SHAH’S BJP IS BRAZENING IT OUT EVEN WHEN VIDEO AND AUDIO PROOFS HAVE EMERGED. RECENTLY , YEDIYURAPPA HAD ADMITTED THAT VOICE IN AN AUDIO TAPE LURING( WITH MONEY, OF COURSE) MLAS FROM THE OPPOSITION TO THE SIDE OF THE BJP WAS HIS AND HE GETS REWARDED WITH CHIEF MINISTER SHIP SOONS AFTER . WE HAVE HEARD THAT CASES AGAINST JANARDANA REDYY AND JAGANMOHAN REDDY ARE BEING DILUTED BY THE CBI ,APPARENTLY UNDER ORDERS, AS A QUID-PRO-QUO FOR WHAT ALL OF US KNOW —-. EVEN ONE PROMINENT MINISTER FROM ASSAM HAD CASES REGISTERED AGAINST HIM BY THE CBI WHEN HE WAS IN THE CONGRESS ONLY TO BE VIRTUALLY LET OFF AFTER HE JOINED THE BJP . ONE CAN GO ON QUOTING MANY SUCH CASES AD NAUSEAM . MANY MINISTERS IN THE PRESENT KARNATAKA GOVERNMENT HAVE BEEN PROVED TO HAVE COMMITTED INFRACTIONS AND THE BJP STILL HOLLERS ABOUT BEING AN “HONEST “PARTY . FIDDLESTICKS

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