Navjot Singh Sidhu today resigned as Punjab Congress chief, delivering a big shock to the Gandhis, who may have hoped that changing Chief Ministers would help end the turmoil in the state before elections early next year. The cricketer-turned-politician tweeted a resignation letter that hinted at his unhappiness at the ongoing changes to the Punjab cabinet.
"The collapse of a man's character stems from the compromise corner. I can never compromise on Punjab's future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab. Therefore, I hereby resign as the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. I will continue to serve the Congress," Navjot Sidhu, 57, wrote in his letter to Sonia Gandhi, which he posted on social media. He had taken charge of the party in Punjab in July.
Sources say Mr Sidhu was upset about the cabinet changes made by new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who was seen to be close to him. Though Mr Sidhu was widely seen to act as "Super Chief Minister" when it came to some decisions, he was reportedly ignored in recent appointments seen as controversial. He was also angry about key posts given to officials linked to the "sacrilege" case.
Navjot Sidhu, say sources, was also unhappy about his rival SS Randhawa being assigned a key ministry.
The double use of the word "compromise" in Mr Sidhu's resignation letter was read as a clue that he was asked to accept some unpleasant choices in the cabinet shuffle.
Amarinder Singh, recently replaced as Chief Minister at Navjot Sidhu's instance, did not lose time in posting an "I-told-you-so" for the Congress leadership.
"I told you so...he is not a stable man and not fit for the border state of Punjab," tweeted the former Chief Minister, who is believed to be closing in on his own decision on his future in the Congress.
With the top two Congress faces in the state exiting in this manner, Punjab has become Exhibit A in the party's growing disarray.
The Congress's loss could well be Arvind Kejriwal's gain; his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is campaigning aggressively in Punjab and Mr Kejriwal will also visit the state tomorrow.
Mr Sidhu's resignation, four months before the Punjab election, calls to question a series of decisions by the leadership.
Despite warnings, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had pushed strongly for Mr Sidhu and had even arranged his meeting with Rahul Gandhi when the Congress was trying to decide on what to do about Amarinder Singh.
The Punjab crisis has smacked the party on a day it welcomed on board high profile faces like Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani.
Mr Sidhu's move coincides with Amarinder Singh's visit to Delhi today. Though it is described as "personal", there is speculation about a possible meeting between the Captain and the BJP.
Too much being read into @capt_amarinder's visit to Delhi. He's on a personal visit, during which he'll meet some friends and also vacate Kapurthala house for the new CM. No need for any unnecessary speculation. pic.twitter.com/CFVCrvBQ0i— Raveen Thukral (@RT_Media_Capt) September 28, 2021
Amarinder Singh resigned as Chief Minister 10 days ago, complaining of repeated "humiliation" by the party. Mr Sidhu, who set the stage for his exit, has now himself quit his post, though he says he will "continue to serve the Congress".