Chandigarh, June 16: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have changed his mind within hours of the appointment of Kamal Nath as incharge of party affairs in Punjab and indicated the same to the party leaders during his visit to Jalandhar to join dharna against corruption and drugs. Interestingly, despite his having given out clear hint about his replacement, Capt Amarinder Singh defended the appointment the next day asserting he was not guilty.
However, the issue is that of people’s perception and with this controversial appointment, the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence narrative was back with a vengeance with the Gandhi family facing direct salvos both from the Akali Dal as well as the Aam Aadmi Party. The Congress can’t afford even a minor slip at this stage and here was a blunder that might have been committed unintentionally. The way out was the offer from Kamal Nath to resign that was accepted without any delay late in the night on Wednesday. The issue was not whether the perception was wrong.
It is apparent that there is something wrong with the decision making process at the top in the Congress and the party is still to make amends going by the choice of Kamal Nath as Punjab incharge despite the shadow over his past. Not that any senior leader has been proved guilty during the last 32 years but that is a different issue. In case of 2002 riots in Gujarat, at least a minister was convicted along with others. However, despite several commissions, the probe into November 1984 crime has reached nowhere. For the Akali Dal in Punjab too, this issues returns to the political discourse only during elections.
The Congress was hit by this self-launched missile at the time when finally, Capt Amarinder Singh decided to go into action. He would be in the field five days a week.
His strategic manager Prashant Kishor has chalked out the plan that is to be implemented with the support of his team. However, there is another aspect in case of Capt Amarinder Singh.
Capt Amarinder Singh is the leader who had dealt the most severe blow to the high flying BJP by giving a crushing defeat to Arun Jaitley. Capt Amarinder Singh himself is a brand and his repackaging might prove counter-productive. His poll strategy was not designed by any strategic manager. gly, Prashant Kishor was rather the strategic poll manager of the BJP when Jaitley met humiliating defeat at the hands of Capt Amarinder Singh. He has his own style of connect with the masses in the state. He is at his best when he is at his own rather than being handed over some speech or talking points.
Ironically, the same manager whose strategy Amarinder successfully confronted now happens to be his strategic commander. Amarinder is the leader on whom generally no charge sticks, either of corruption, inaccessibility or his life style. His worst weakness, of course, has been his coterie that is expert in blocking access to him. Both Capt Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal are loved and hated by the people for different reasons.
In the state elections, there is little role for party incharge to be played except the fact that several of them are known to have made huge amounts during elections in Punjab. However in this case, the party in Punjab had suddenly to be on defensive facing sharp attacks from the rivals.
Kamal Nath has stated that he was assigned this responsibility by Sonia Gandhi who informed him about the decision. The briefing to the decision makers overlooked his controversial past. However, the decision makers have been quick to rectify this blunder and this seems to be a change in the party functioning. It may be mentioned that Rahul took more than three months to clear the list of new office bearers after Capt Amarinder Singh took over and that delayed the launch of his poll campaign. The party would have to exercise same efficiency in the early announcement of candidates.