In a day of high political drama, the Congress high command forced the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ahead of a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting convened by the AICC. The final decision of the new chief minister was left to the party president Sonia Gandhi.
Party sources said former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar is being considered a front runner as the Congress wants to appoint a Hindu leader as Chief Minister, after appointing Navjot Singh Sidhu, a Jat Sikh as the PCC chief.
Capt. Amarinder handed over his resignation to Governor Banwarilal Purohit ahead of the CLP meeting — widely seen as a move to remove him — citing continued humiliation by the Congress leadership over the past two months.
“I was humiliated three times by the Congress leadership in the past two months…they called the MLAs to Delhi twice and now convened a CLP here in Chandigarh today,” said Capt. Amarinder, after submitting his resignation letter to the Governor. He added that he had informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning that he would resign. Before meeting the Governor, Capt. Amarinder held discussions with a few MLAs and MPs at his official residence.
“Apparently they (Congress high command) do not have confidence in me and did not think I could handle my job. But I felt humiliated at the manner in which they handled the whole affair,” he said. “Let them appoint who they trust,” he said, taking a dig at the party leadership.
Capt. Amarinder said he would decide his future political course of action in consultation with his supporters who had stood by him for over five decades.
“I hereby tender my resignation as Chief Minister, and that of my Council of Ministers,” the one-line resignation letter said.
Lashing out at Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, Capt. Amarinder dubbed him as anti-national, dangerous, unstable and incompetent. He added that he would fight any move to make the former cricketer the chief minister “tooth and nail.”
“There was no question of supporting Sidhu, who was clearly mixed up with Pakistan and a danger, as well as a disaster, for Punjab and the country. I cannot allow such a man to destroy us, I will continue to fight the issues that are bad for this State and its people,” said the outgoing Chief Minister.
“We have all seen Sidhu hugging Imran Khan and General Bajwa, and singing praises for the Pakistan Prime Minister at the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor while our soldiers were being killed at the borders every day,” Capt Amarinder said, pointing out that the ex-cricketer had attended Mr. Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony even after he (Capt Amarinder) categorically told him not to. “The government of Punjab means the security of India, and if Sidhu is made the face of the Congress for chief ministership, I will fight him at every step,” he added.
Later in the evening, after the CLP meeting, Congress leader and party’s Punjab observer Ajay Maken said two resolutions were passed at the meeting, which was attended by 78 MLAs of the 80.
“In first resolution, the contribution of Capt. Amarinder Singh towards the party and for Punjab was appreciated and also presented an expectation that his guidance will continue to be there in the future as well. In the second resolution, the Congress president was authorised to select the CLP leader. Whosoever she decided will be acceptable to all,” he said.
With several rounds of meetings during the past few months failing to douse the infighting, the Congress leadership late on Friday night announced the Punjab CLP meeting, as yet another attempt to resolve the turmoil in the Punjab unit.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have spoken to the Chief Minister, after nearly 40 MLAs wrote to the central leadership expressing “lack of faith in the leadership of the Chief Minister in fulfilling the party’s 2017 Assembly election promises.” They also said that hardly anything was being done towards fulfilment of the 18-point programme issued by the party high command and demanded a meeting of the CLP.
“The AICC has received a representation from a large number of MLAs from the Congress party, requesting to immediately convene a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party of Punjab. Accordingly, a meeting of the CLP has been convened at 5:00 p.m. on September 18 at Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee office,” AICC in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat said in a tweet late on Friday, taking many legislators by surprise.
In the past few months those who had raised the baton against Capt. Amarinder included four Ministers - Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Bajwa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria and Charanjit Channi, besides the other MLAs, expressing lack of faith in the leadership of the Chief Minister in fulfilling the party’s 2017 Assembly election promises. The disgruntled leaders pointed out Capt. Amarinder led government has failed to resolve several issues - be it the Bargari sacrilege, curbing the drugs and transport mafias and other 2017 election promises.
Amid a power tussle between Capt. Amarinder and state party president Navjot Singh Sidhu, the AICC had on July 18 appointed Mr. Sidhu as president of the PPCC in an apparent attempt to resolve the crisis. Capt. Amarinder and Mr. Sidhu have been at loggerheads since the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.