New Delhi: News channels have been buzzing, pitting Navjot Singh Sidhu against Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh after the former's 'Rahul is my captain' barb. But very few do realise that it is hardly a battle. In actuality, it is Rahul Gandhi versus Amarinder where Sidhu is being used as a mere prop.

To understand the present, we need to briefly shift focus back to 2016. It was the last day of the year, December 31. Rahul took to Twitter to announce that he will be 'traveling for the next few days'.

Amarinder’s Dare 1

Rahul’s New Year break is a yearly ritual but what was uncommon last year was the impending Punjab election where BJP was fighting Himalayan anti-incumbency and the Congress's CM candidate Amarinder had a huge chance to win it back. What happened next was rare in the Congress. Amarinder released the Congress manifesto without Rahul, still the Congress vice president.

It proved two things. One, Sonia Gandhi, still the Congress president, had faith enough to realise Amarinder can 'manage' in spite of Rahul, the face of Congress and his son not being present. Two, Amarinder doesn't need '10 Janpath' to successfully contest Punjab.

Amarinder’s Dare 2

The ego fight between Amarinder and Rahul didn't spring up overnight after Kartarpur. Rather many within the Congress, as well as the Punjab BJP, believe that Sidhu batted for Kartarpur and defied Amarinder's 'request' to reconsider his decision to visit Pakistan, because of the backing of Rahul. The ego clash had its roots back to the days when Akalis (Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP coalition) were ruling Punjab. Pratap Singh Bajwa was appointed as the Punjab Congress president. He was Rahul's man in the state but with almost no mass base. Though he was a Cabinet minister in Punjab between 2002 and 2007, he was no match to Amarinder. But he stood up against him. Amarinder joked about him as 'Little Delhi' and when Bajwa used to call meetings almost no state Congressmen turned up to show their allegiance with Amarinder, the 'Captain'.

Every time, Rahul, then the crown prince took it personally. So it is but natural that now as the party president, he would try to do what he has done in the past; get even with Amarinder.


This time he had a vocal prop in Sidhu, unlike a mild-mannered Bajwa. Sidhu not only defied Amarinder's 'advice' against visiting Pakistan but over there he went to Pakistani media saying, it is Pakistan who started the Indo-Pak peace process, every time it took place. Not only it hurt sentiments back home, it was factually incorrect. Sidhu didn't even take into account Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bus ride to Lahore only to be paid back in Kargil war. But, so far, there has been stunned silence from Rahul and his media team. 

After coming back home, Sidhu explicitly stated while in Hyderabad, "Mere captain Rahul Gandhi hain, unhone toh bheja hai har jagah (for Kartarpur Corridor)." Though later he cried foul of wrongly quoting him, the video is there for everyone to see. Most in the Punjab Congress (and they side with Amarinder) maintain this bravado comes from a clear backing from the higher-up.

Amarinder’s  Dare 3

Meanwhile, a barrage of opposition has propped up against Sidhu. Rural development and panchayat minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa told news agency PTI, “If he does not consider Capt Amarinder as his captain then he should resign on moral grounds from the Cabinet and do whatever work is assigned to him by Rahul Gandhi.”
The revenue and rehabilitation minister, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and sports minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi are other two prominent figures who have stood against Sidhu, whom many see in Punjab as standing against 'New Delhi diktat'. Bajwa even went ahead to demand Sidhu’s resignation as well. 

Meanwhile, large posters have mushroomed overnight across Punjab with Amarinder's photo that says in Punjabi 'Punjab’s captain is our captain' which roughly translates into 'Rahul Gandhi, as suggested by Sidhu is not our captain'. Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu blatantly endorsed those writings in posters while giving TV interviews.

Punjab is up in arms. But it is a mistake to think that they are against Sidhu. Sidhu, they know is a mere prop like Bajwa. The Punjab Congress is up in arms against Rahul, the party president. Because as one old Congress hand told MyNation, requesting anonymity, 'there can be only one captain in the team and Punjab has chosen that'.