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‘It’s Over With Congress’: Amarinder Slams ‘Party Interference’, Says Sidhu Elevation ‘Created Bad Blood’

Amarinder Singh had stepped down from the post of Punjab CM following an acrimonious power struggle with Navjot Singh Sidhu. (Image ANI)

Amarinder Singh had stepped down from the post of Punjab CM following an acrimonious power struggle with Navjot Singh Sidhu. (Image ANI)

Speaking to CNN-News18, Amarinder Singh said Congress lost ground very fast in Punjab and making Sidhu the state party chief was one of the reasons for the decline.

Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said that after he left the Congress, he could have either floated a new party or join someone else, adding that he could not have sat at home as he can do a lot for Punjab. Speaking exclusively to CNN-News18’s Managing Editor Zakka Jacob a day after he announced he would soon launch his political party, Singh said, “The Congress decided that I must go, so I have left the party…but I don’t think I will sit at home…I can do a lot for Punjab."

The former senior Congress leader said, “Morarji Desai was prime minister at 92, Parkash Badal is 15 years older than me…so why can’t I stay on?"

Singh had stepped down from the top post last month citing “humiliation" following an acrimonious power struggle with Punjab MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was appointed as the state Congress president.

Talking about the Congress, Singh said the party lost ground very fast in Punjab after Sidhu was made the state president. “About six months ago, they were doing well. One main reason for the decline was (when) Sidhu was made the state party president," he said, adding that Sidhu’s elevation “created some bad blood".

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Singh, who was one of the Congress’ powerful regional satraps, also said he had never experienced “this sort of interference ever as a chief minister."

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The 79-year-old further said he doesn’t know why the Gandhi family asked him to put in his papers. “I had a very close relationship with Rajiv Gandhi…I don’t know why the family did what they did." Elaborating further, Singh said, “Everything can’t be decided in Delhi. I got a call from the party President (Sonia Gandhi) to resign. All that she said was that ‘Amarinder, you should resign’."

Raising concerns over the deteriorating security situation of Punjab, Singh said his decision to form a new party is linked to the issue. “The situation in Punjab has changed. We have terrorists and gangsters linked with each other, arms and ammunition trafficking, I have seen this happen over the last 1.5 years, and that’s why I decided to contest again."

He said, “I had told Sonia Gandhi that I would lead Congress in Punjab elections…once we win…I will step down and you can choose the chief minister. At that time, Sonia Gandhi received the letter well."

However, in an attack against the grand old party, Singh said, “As far as the Congress is concerned…It is over", and asserted, “I am not a horse to be put out in the pasture."

Singh had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah last month in Delhi, sparking speculations of joining the BJP after his exit from Congress. In response to the rumours, Singh said he met Shah to discuss the farmers’ protest. He also added that he had always ensured that Punjab received the money that is needed from the Centre.

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Singh has urged Shah to resolve the crisis urgently by repealing the three farm laws. “There are three contentious bills…we have so many amendments…why can’t we have one for these farm laws?" he asked.

Singh, however, said approaching the Supreme Court is not a solution as farm laws is a “political" matter. “Farmers want certain guarantees and protections. I met the Home Minister and told him that this thing should not get out of hand." The former chief minister had also raised security concerns in his meeting with Shah, “ISI and Khalistanis could recruit from the farmer protest."

‘Channi a good boy’

Speaking on the Punjab assembly elections, Singh said talks on seat adjustments in connection with his party could be tabled provided BJP resolves the farmers’ issue. “We will talk to BJP about seat adjustments closer to elections…but for that to happen, BJP must resolve the farmer issues."

“If BJP resolves the farmer’s issue, I have no problem with them," he said.

Addressing close relations with BJP, he said, “As the chief minister, I have to be close to BJP…no chief minister can act alone…you think the new CM won’t meet the BJP and Prime Minister?"

On the newly appointed chief minister, Singh said Channi is a “good boy and hardworking, but it is too little, too late" for Congress. “Channi is running around all over Punjab…that is not his job…his job is to run the government," he said, adding, “I delegated my work to my ministers and guided them while I ran the government." “I don’t need to run around."

Singh said Sidhu’s father and Congressman, the late Sardar Bhagwant Singh, had introduced him to politics. “Sidhu was a boy with a certain character…you saw how he was a cricketer." However, as a political leader, he is unstable, “I had told this to Sonia Gandhi," he said.

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first published:October 20, 2021, 16:33 IST