No need for leadership experiment in Punjab: Sunil Jakhar
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar on Monday announced chief minister Amarinder Singh will lead the party in the 2022 assembly elections. Navneet Sharma spoke to Jakhar about the announcement and speculation that it has been made to pre-empt central leadership’s efforts to rehabilitate Navjot Singh Sidhu, who quit the state cabinet in July 2019 following differences with Singh. Edited excerpts:
What prompted you to make the announcement?
I have stated the obvious. It stands to reason. One of the major reasons for this clean sweep in civic polls is his leadership. ...people, especially of urban areas, have voted for peace, amity, and brotherhood in Punjab and his ability to have maintained that. They have put their faith [in him] also as he will maintain it in these troubled and testing times when the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and SAD [Shiromani Akali Dal] are hell-bent on polarising the state. I have only articulated the people’s feelings.
Does not the high command normally make such announcements?
I know my limitations. I am here because the high command has appointed me to look after the party’s interests. They are the real authority. If I had taken the name of anybody else, then it would have amounted to crossing the line. Amarinder is here as the choice of the high command. I am only reiterating their choice. I realise that my decisions need to be endorsed by the central leadership. There are disgruntled elements trying to create an impression that Jakhar is challenging the high command whereas I am only articulating the choice of people. Punjab is leading the fight for saving not just the federal structure but democracy. In such a situation, one cannot think of having a novice. You need a seasoned leader. This is not the time to experiment. People want to be led with a firm hand by someone who understands nuances, especially the way Punjab is being treated by the Centre.
Is not it a bit early as the elections are still a year away?
We are in election mode. To think that we have romped home and sit back would be an illusion. I think we have to prepare. There are 40 seats where the Congress has not done well.
Your move is being seen as an attempt to prevent the rehabilitation of former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu as deputy chief minister or as the state unit chief?
He is most welcome to take any position that is given to him by the high command and Amarinder Singh. There is no attempt to stall anyone’s induction. There should be no ambiguity. The sooner the party organisation is put in place, the better it is. Now is the time to decide whatever position Sidhu or any other leader is to be given. Let us not squander away the advantage we have. It is a stepping stone. We need to build and capitalise on it.
What role do you see for Sidhu in the elections?
Amarinder, Sidhu, and the high command have to settle this. His popularity is there for everybody to see. Where he needs to be adjusted, (Congress’s Punjab in-charge Harish) Rawat has said he will accommodated in accordance with his capabilities. We should make the most of him.
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