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News18 Exclusive | Captain Walks Off the Pitch, But 'Hasn't Quit the Game'

Amarinder Singh stepped down as Punjab CM amid intense infighting in the state Congress. File photo: PTI)

Amarinder Singh stepped down as Punjab CM amid intense infighting in the state Congress. File photo: PTI)

The senior Congress leader said he has always been a 'Fauji' and just like in the forces, he has completed a task and will take the next task after consultation with others.

Hours after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh resigned on Saturday following months of a power tussle in the ruling party, the senior Congress leader told CNN-News18 Punjab that despite him nearing 80, he will not back down and explore future options in politics with his colleagues.

The senior Congress leader said he has always been a ‘Fauji’ and just like in the forces, he has completed a task and after 9 and a half years in the chief ministerial post, he will take the next task after consultation with others.

Singh, who had submitted his resignation to Governor Banwarilal Purohit earlier in the day, spoke about alleged rumours of joining forces with the Akali Dal and accused Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa of lying. On the rift with Congress Punjab chief Navjot Singh Sindhu and possible CM candidate, Singh in a sharp criticism called him “a total disaster" who doesn’t have the capability to handle a ministry let alone a state. While Singh avoided questions about why and how the abrupt resignation took place ahead of the Punjab assembly elections, he revealed he had tabled talks about his exit in a closed-door meeting with party president Sonia Gandhi three months ago.

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What was the reason behind such a big step? You won with a maximum margin in Punjab assembly election 2017 but the Congress high command did not have faith in you? What is the reason why there is had been no all is well in Congress in the past six months?

Why they did not have faith in me or what happened should be asked from them. I can only talk for myself. Three months ago, MLAs were called to Delhi repeated three times, along with CLP meeting. That showed a lack of confidence. If there is no confidence, there is no reason for me to stay there. Therefore I spoke to Congress president today and told her I am sending you my resignation, make chief minister to whoever you want and have confidence.

But what was the reason? The party had trusted you in 2016 and you won 77 seats a year later.

What is the reason why is he going to Delhi, a lot of people speculate and say. I don’t know about that but what I know for sure is that I performed my duty. This Punjab is mine, and I have been in the post of chief minister for nine and a half years: five years in the earlier term and now four and a half years. I worked at full capacity for the state and Punjabis and I’m very happy about it.

Talks over one minister are made CM or quit keeps happening in politics and I have been in this field for 52 years. So I don’t care about these things. I’m in politics and will continue to be there.

What will you be doing now that you have resigned?

I have just resigned today, but options are always there in politics. Options are limitless and we will see forward what will happen. I have my colleagues over my 52-year-long term in politics. I will discuss with my colleagues both in parliament, assembly and the party.

But what are these options? Will you be joining the BJP? What is the way forward?

I don’t want to answer these questions, but the fact is that options are there. I may be nearing 80 years old and I’m fit as a tiger, and I will continue to fight. I’m not the kind who leaves and backs down. I’m a Fauji and will continue to be one.

There are tasks given in the Army. I have completed my task, and now I will take up another. Politics is a very fast-moving game.

With the upcoming Punjab assembly polls, you had few more months. Did you have plans for the future?

I have told you, there are a lot of friends over my 50 years of tenure. I will discuss and consult with them.

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Will you be talking to the farmers?

I’m with Congress since Day 1, what are the engagements with them, who is talking to them, where are they going. what are the issues they are facing: whether giving Rs 5 lakh to those who have died, giving job to their kin, all of this was my programme. We did a lot for the farmers because the issues that the farmers are raising is right.

There have been talks of Kisan leaders entering politics, have you had discussions with them regarding this?

No, there have been no talks regarding politics with them.

Is it after Navjot Singh Sindhu entered Punjab politics that the issue began?

I told the Congress president, not today but three months ago when I met her. I had told her my decision during the meeting in the presence of Congress general secretary Harish Rawat. I said, “Ma’am you relieve me from this charge because I cannot work in this way such that when Mr Sidhu is pulling right and I’m pulling left because that would completely split the torrent. She told me, ‘no, I want you to carry on.’ Now I don’t know why they gave such a decision.

Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa has accused you of working with the Akali Dal. What is your response to this accusation?

Akali Dal makes statements of whatever suits the narrative. For 13 years, Akali Dal has continuously filed a case against me. They removed me from the assembly and set up a committee where the 7-0 verdict got me back. I have enmity with him how can I join forces with them? Tript Bajwa either doesn’t know politics or is lying.

The situation right now is that all that were against Congress is facing cases and you are soft on the Badals. Is this true?

Whether it is Jawahar Kala, Kotkapura, Bargari, all SITs are ongoing. SITs that have completed investigations have been converted into case where arrests have also been made. The ex DGP is out on bail, IGP Paramraj Singh was out on bail. All investigations are ongoing. Am I breaking the laws of the country?

The Akali Dal created issues in a manner where one of them get the post. The game is the same in Delhi and in here in Punjab.

Will you agree to Navjot Singh Sindhu becoming the chief minister?

I will not agree with Navjot Singh Sidhu as chief minister. He is a total disaster. He was a minister and couldn’t even handle a ministry. How will he run a state? I had told the Congress president expressing my wish to resign, then why was there a need for CLP? I don’t know who is being considered for the CM post but I will never accept Sidhu as I know his capability and he has no capability at all.

Is there anything you would like to tell Congress high command and the leaders?

I have nothing to tell. Sonia ji has known me for the last fifty years, the kids I have known since they were young and their father used to study with me in school. They are like my own children. I have no issues with Rahul Gandhi.

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first published:September 18, 2021, 19:59 IST