Amarinder Singh resigns as Punjab chief minister, says ‘I felt humiliated’
Captain Amarinder Singh resigned as the Punjab chief minister on Saturday, amid the ongoing political tussle with Navjot Singh Sidhu who was recently appointed as the chief of the Congress' Punjab unit. The resignation comes less than five months before the Assembly elections in Punjab, and less than an hour before a legislature party (CLP) meeting called by the Congress party.
The resignation was announced by the senior Congress leader's son Raninder Singh on Twitter.
Addressing a press conference at the gate of the Raj Bhavan, the 79-year-old Amarinder Singh said he felt humiliated. “I called up Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) this morning and told her that I am going to resign. The thing is, this is happening for the third time that MLAs are being called for a meeting, my leadership is being questioned,” he said.
Singh said there is no plans for now to quit the Congress party, “but future politics is always an option”. He said that the future course of action will be decided after discussions with his loyalists. Political analysts say the move would hurt the Congress in the upcoming state polls.
Meanwhile, the meeting of the Congress legislators in the faction-ridden state unit began in Chandigarh as scheduled at 5pm.
“CM @capt_amarinder has met Punjab governor and submitted his and his council of ministers’ resignation,” the CM’s media adviser Raveen Thukral tweeted on Saturday evening. Singh was accompanied by his wife, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur and son Raninder Singh. Lok Sabha MPs Gurjit Singh Aujla and Ravneet Singh Bittu were also present.
Singh, who had declared the 2017 battle in which he led the Congress to a near two-thirds to be his last one, was raring to have another go. Sidhu, meanwhile, never cloaked his ambition and pictured himself as the natural claimant to the mantle of the chief minister if the party retains power in the polls next year.
The cricketer-turned-politician was appointed the state president on July 18, ignoring the CM's opposition to his elevation.
Infighting in Punjab Congress
The feud, fuelled by the competing ambitions of both Singh and Sidhu, left the state unit, particularly ministers and legislators, divided, making the party cadre becoming apprehensive about its impact on electoral prospects.
To make matters worse, both the leaders indulged in one-upmanship, rarely letting go of any opportunity to pull each other down.
The legal setback the Punjab government received in the 2015 Kotkapura police firing case gave the Sidhu faction further ammo to target Singh.
The role of Congress high command
The Congress high command, particularly general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former president Rahul Gandhi, backed Sidhu and named him the state chief, but not before a public spectacle played out live on TV by parading party leaders, including Singh, before a three-member central committee.
Though the high command expected the situation to ameliorate, it did not get any better.
Concerned, the Congress leadership hurriedly called a CLP meeting today on the insistence of Singh's detractors. The dissenting cabinet ministers and MLAs, who are close to Sidhu, had met Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat last month to seek Singh's ouster and demanded a CLP meeting.
Tussle for control of the party first broke out in 2019, when Sidhu resigned as a state minister after he was divested of the local bodies portfolio.
He had switched sides from the BJP to the Congress before the 2017 state assembly elections.
The bickering continued for months and eased somewhat after Sidhu was elevated as state unit chief overriding Singh's objections. But the fire was not completely doused and it resulted in today's resignation.
Punjab goes to the polls early next year.