Losing support of 60 MLAs sealed Amarinder’s exit
The final chapter in the Congress’s plan to remove Captain Amarinder Singh as Punjab chief minister began on Friday afternoon when party general secretary Ajay Maken went to meet former party president Rahul Gandhi on Friday afternoon with a document signed by at least 60 Congress MLAs from the state.
The signatures, taken on Friday morning, showed that Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh did not enjoy the support of his own legislative party, according to people familiar with the matter. To be sure, Singh himself has admitted that most MLAs typically do what the party high command wants them to; and analysts point out that this is especially true in the run-up to an election because it is the party that decides who contests and who doesn’t.
Things moved quickly from this point, they said. Gandhi asked Maken to consult the party’s legal expert Abhishek Singhvi fearing that Singh could recommend the dissolution of the Punjab assembly to governor Banwarilal Purohit, one person aware of the matter said.
Simultaneously, this person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added, Gandhi asked Harish Rawat, the party general secretary in charge of the state, to call a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party to elect a new CM.
When Rawat called Singh to communicate there would be a CLP meeting, a surprised Singh asked him what was the purpose of calling the meeting was, a second senior Congress leader said. “Singh anticipated that he would be removed. He dialled Congress president Sonia Gandhi this morning to air his grievances and claimed that he has been repeatedly humiliated,” this leader added.
“Two rapid action teams were set up in New Delhi and Punjab if any legal intervention was required. The Congress has a rightful claim to continue governing Punjab ahead of the elections,” said a third leader.
The leaders underlined that a signal was given to Amarinder when Navjyot Singh Sidhu was appointed as the PCC chief on July 18 this year, ignoring the CM’s stiff objections.
But the first sign of Captain’s depleting control over Punjab came, they added, when poll strategist Prashant Kishor quit as his advisor and gave feedback that the Congress was likely behind the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, another functionary said. “The party’s internal surveys, too, found the Congress organisation lagging and that it would not get half of its current seats,” the functionary said, asking not to be named.
The Congress has 80 MLAs in the 117-member state assembly.
The functionary claimed that the CM didn’t have many efficient officers in his inner circle (one of the reasons for anti-incumbency).
“Even otherwise, people of the state are not happy with him, especially the farmers,” the second leader said.
Last month, Amarinder publicly contradicted Rahul Gandhi over the Jallianwala Bagh makeover. While Gandhi said that the revamp of the national memorial was an “insult to martyrs”, Singh said: “To me, it looks very nice.”