Splainer

Monday, September 20 2021


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That was a heck of a ride for us. We’re just getting started.

That’s what billionaire Jared Isaacman said after spending three days in space. He piloted the SpaceX craft Inspiration4—whose four crew members made history as the first private, all-civilian crew on a space mission. Also this: “For a brief moment, a record 14 people were in orbit at the same time: the four Inspiration4 crew members, three Chinese astronauts on the country’s nascent space station and seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station.”


Coming up soon: Our next Ask Me Anything session with Aditi Mittal—one of the funniest women in India. Just check out her ‘Girl Meets Mic’ special on Netflix or this clip from ‘Mother of Invention’ (sadly not available on Amazon Prime India). Time/Date: 6 pm on Thursday, September 23, via Zoom. Sign up here for one of the limited slots.

 
Big Story

The rude replacement of Amarinder Singh

The TLDR: The Chief Minister tendered his resignation after being forced out by the Gandhi family—and has been replaced by Punjab’s first ever Dalit CM Charanjit Singh Channi. The reason for this upheaval: state elections slated for February.

 

The fall of Amarinder Singh

Captain Singh was sitting pretty after winning the 2017 state elections with a whopping majority. But victory could not rid him of his two nemeses: Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rahul Gandhi. 

 

Navjot Singh Sidhu: The former cricketer—infamous for his road rage issuesdefected from the BJP to Congress just before the 2017 elections. And he has been a thorn in Singh’s side ever since. The Captain appeared to have the upper hand when he kicked Sidhu out of the cabinet. But he has since staged a comeback with the support of rebels who have openly spoken out against Singh. And Sidhu has been blithely accusing Singh of sleeping with the enemy—specifically the Badals who lead the Akali Dal. Despite all his incendiary tactics, the Gandhis recently made Sidhu the state party chief over Singh’s vehement objections.

 

The tipping point: On Friday, 60 out 80 Congress state MLAs—under the leadership of Sidhu—signed a statement declaring their loss of faith in Singh’s leadership. The powers-that-be in Delhi signalled they would hold a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party to elect a new CM. And Amarinder Singh resigned soon after, lashing out at Sidhu until the very end: 

 

“Navjot Singh Sidhu is an incompetent man, he is going to be a disaster. I will oppose his name for the next CM face… He is friends with (Pakistan Army chief) Qamar Javed Bajwa and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.”

 

Rahul Gandhi: A school friend of Rajiv, Amarinder Singh enjoyed a close relationship with Sonia Gandhi. But Rahul was never warm on Singh—and opposed the decision to appoint him as state party chief in 2015. At that point, Singh played hardball and threatened to start his own party. The result: Singh got the prize position and led the Congress to landslide victory in 2017. But the bad feelings remained… and grew as Rahul first wooed and then backed Sidhu against Singh. It didn’t help that the Captain often undermined Rahul’s attempts to take on the BJP. For example: calling the Jallianwala Bagh memorial “very nice” while Gandhi Jr was busy condemning it as an “insult to martyrs.”

 

The tipping point: Singh was summoned to Delhi by the leadership thrice in the past month—to explain himself and address Sidhu’s rebellion. Yet, he was not granted an audience with the Gandhis—who, however, had all the time for selfies with Sidhu. Singh became increasingly angry, and wrote a letter to Sonia accusing the party high command of “forcibly interfering” in the Punjab government. Once the writing was on the wall, Singh resigned rather than be pushed out, saying: “The party seemed to have an element of doubt that I could not run the government. I feel humiliated.”

 

Amarinder hearts BJP? While Singh says “at the moment I am still in Congress,” there is already heated speculation about his next move. He may start his own party, but most political observers are sceptical as to whether it will have any impact. The BJP may offer a more hospitable destination:

 

“The only way Capt. Amarinder can survive is by joining another party. Floating a new party won’t be an easy task. His best bet could be the Bharatiya Janata Party. Capt. Amarinder has a moderate image and is an acceptable leader among Hindus in Punjab. He has been invoking his military background, national security issues, targeting Navjot Singh Sidhu on his Pakistan connection—it all blends well with the BJP line.”

 

Was he any good as a CM?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • A huge diplomatic fight over a sub deal
  • Pentagon admits guilt in Afghanistan
  • A bizarre migrant crisis in the US
  • The ultimate ‘Queen’s Gambit’

 

Smart & Curious

  • Cunhaporanga Tatuyo—a TikTok star who lives in the Amazon forest 
  • The rising trend of forcing vegetarianism 
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