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Restless Capt ups ante against high command, Delhi pacifies

Breaking away from a party is not new to former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. The rebel in him is once again raring to go.

punjab Updated: Sep 22, 2015 10:56 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times
Former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh(ht photo)

Breaking away from a party is not new to former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. The rebel in him is once again raring to go.

There is pure design to why the deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha has been firing salvos at party’s vicepresident Rahul Gandhi and giving Congress programmes a miss, Sunday’s kisan rally being the latest. Sources close to the Captain say it is as much out of desperation at not having his way in matters of deciding the state leadership as about having a break-up plan ready.

Amarinder himself does not rule out the possibility. In an interview to HT last month, when asked if he could form his own party, Amarinder had said, “I will answer the question, if and when needed.”

Though Amarinder is flying to England on Tuesday to attend a family function of MLA Kewal Dhillon, sources close to him say he is waiting for the party high command to appoint the new state chief.

“If they can appoint him as the campaign committee chief, why not the state chief ? Amarinder does not want to look hungry for the CM’s chair. He is upbeat by the response to his rallies in Punjab and wants to script the turnaround story of the Congress in Punjab. But he is waiting for who the party appoints as the state president. Then he can play the victim and say the party left him no choice but to part ways,” an MLA close to him said.

The recent outburst of Amarinder against Rahul’s style of functioning in an interview is being seen as the Captain running out of patience to put his plan of breaking free from the Congress into action.

It has put the high command on damage control. According to highly placed sources in the party, a leader close to Sonia called up Amarinder on Monday and asked him not to burn bridges with the party.

“New Delhi has intervened. Amarinder has been assured that the party leadership is working to find a way to accommodate his demands,” Congress sources in Delhi said.

It will ensure that the fast and furious former Patiala royal does not pull the rug when the party is focusing on the Bihar polls. A decision on the state leadership is likely after October 4 when Amarinder returns from his UK trip.

MLAs sign petition to bring in Capt

After a power dinner for MLAs in Chandigarh, Capt Amarinder Singh hosted over 20 of them in New Delhi last week where one of the MLAs proposed that a petition be sent to party president Sonia Gandhi to bring back Amarinder as the state chief. The petition, which was signed by all the MLAs present, read, “The response to Amarinder’s rallies has proved his popularity and he would be the best person to lead the party in the 2017 polls.” Even the Captain’s camp is divided. Some of Amarinder’s loyalists want to break free but a few others who have long association with the Congress are not willing to snap ties with the party, at least not without exploring all channels of dialogue with the party.

First Published: Sep 22, 2015 10:55 IST