As the Congress struggles to choose a replacement for Captain Amarinder Singh who pre-empted a move to remove him as chief minister by resigning merely 30 minutes before the party legislature meet on Saturday, the group will reconvene on Sunday for a final decision, sources told News18.
Another CLP meeting has been called again on Sunday at 11 am at Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh to deliberate on who is best suited to replace Amrinder. Central Congress Observer Ajay Maken, Harish Rawat and Harish Chaudhary will also be present in the meeting. All the MLAs and ministers have been asked to remain present.
The 79-year-old Amarinder Singh, one of the Congress’ powerful regional satraps, put in his papers after speaking to party president Sonia Gandhi with less than five months to go for the Assembly polls after a bruising power struggle with state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu. He said he felt ‘humiliated‘.
Besides Navjot Singh Sidhu, among the names doing the rounds as Amarinder Singh’s replacement included former PCC chiefs Sunil Jakhar and Pratap Bajwa and state ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Tript Rajinder Bajwa.
Over 50 MLAs in the party had written to Sonia Gandhi seeking that Amarinder Singh is replaced as chief minister, a move that capped months of a fractious feud between him and Navjot Singh Sidhu who was recently made state Congress president much against the senior leader’s wishes. The Congress has 80 MLAs in the 117-member state assembly. A resolution passed unanimously at the CLP meeting authorised Sonia Gandhi to pick its new leader.
The CLP meeting was convened by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) with its general secretary and in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat making the announcement in a tweet shortly before midnight on Friday. Such meetings are usually called by the chief minister as he is the CLP leader in the state. Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken, who was one of the two central observers deputed by the party, told reporters that 78 of the 80 party MLAs were present at the meeting.
He said another resolution praising and thanking Amarinder Singh for his contribution towards Punjab and the Congress was also unanimously passed at the meeting. “We expect that the party will continue to get guidance from Amarinder Singh,” he said.
The current term of the state Assembly ends on March 27 next year.
In a cryptic tweet, Jakhar, the son of former Lok Sabha Speaker and Congress stalwart Balram Jakhar, lauded Rahul Gandhi for the “bold” solution taken in Punjab to resolve the leadership crisis. “Kudos to Sh Rahul Gandhi for adopting Alexandrian solution to this punjabi version of Gordian knot. Surprisingly, this bold leadership decision to resolve Punjab Congress imbroglio has not only enthralled congress workers but has sent shudders down the spines of Akalis,” he said.
Amarinder Singh, credited with putting the party back in the saddle in Punjab after an intensely fought poll battle that decimated the Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) and stymied the Aam Aadmi Party’s(AAP) hopes, submitted his resignation along with that of his council of ministers a little after 4.35 pm.
Amarinder Singh was accompanied by his wife and MP Preneet Kaur and son Raninder Singh when he submitted his resignation. The unrest in the state unit does not bode well for the Congress in Punjab, where it is hoping to be elected back to power. The hope was that calm would return after Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed PCC president but that might not happen. Trouble between the two factions has been brewing for long. Navjot Singh Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh ever since he quit the Punjab cabinet as a minister in 2019. He had become more vocal in his views in the last some months.
Last month, four ministers and around two dozen party legislators had raised the banner of revolt against the Punjab chief minister and said they had no faith in Amarinder Singh’s ability to honour unfulfilled promises.
(With PTI inputs)