Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh kept up his attack on Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday and said he thinks that the cricketer-turned-politician is undermining Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s authority. He also said the kind of situation that Sidhu has created was never seen before in Punjab.
Asked if Sidhu is undermining Channi’s authority, the veteran Congress leader, who returned to Chandigarh on Thursday evening after a visit to Delhi, said, “I think so.” “Sidhu’s job is to run party affairs and Channi’s job is to run the government. There is never any interference. I have been the PCC chief thrice. “The two (the Pradesh Congress Committee chief and the chief minister) consult each other, but the final decision is of Channi, who is the chief minister, not Sidhu,” Singh told reporters at the Chandigarh airport.
Sidhu abruptly resigned as the state Congress chief on Tuesday, plunging the ruling party in Punjab into fresh crisis months ahead of the Assembly polls. The cricketer-turned-politician raised questions on Wednesday over the appointments of the state’s director-general of police, advocate general and “tainted” leaders as ministers.
Replying to a question on whom to remove from the cabinet or appoint as ministers, Singh said these decisions have to be taken by the chief minister. “To appoint, remove or transfer ministers or officers is the chief minister’s job. What does the PCC president have to do with it?” he asked.
Singh said over the nine-and-a-half years when he was the chief minister (2002-07 and March 2017 to September 2021), there have been many PCC chiefs. “We used to talk and consult each other, but the kind of situation that Sidhu has created was never seen,” he added.
Asked to comment on the current developments in the state, Singh said, “I have already said that Sidhu is not the right man for Punjab.” “And from wherever he contests, I will not let him win,” the former chief minister asserted. Singh had earlier accused Sidhu of being close to Pakistan and its Prime Minister Imran Khan and had alleged that he was “dangerous” for the border state.
Asked if any Congress MLAs or ministers would follow him when he formally parts way with the party, he asked, “Do you think I will tell you this?” On a question on whether there should be a floor test in the Assembly in view of the current situation within the Punjab Congress, Singh said, “These matters are for the speaker to see…. It is not my job.” Asked about media reports suggesting that he could float a regional party ahead of the Assembly polls, he evaded a direct reply, but quipped in a lighter vein, “Media reports also said that I am going to join the BJP at 12 noon today.” Singh again reiterated that he would not join the saffron party but said he would quit the Congress. “I am not going to remain in the Congress, but I am not joining the BJP,” he said.
Asked when will he resign from the Congress, Singh said, “I will tell you at an appropriate time.” During his visit to the national capital, Singh held separate meetings with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval. He resigned as the chief minister on September 18 after accusing the Congress of humiliating him.
Singh said during his meeting with Shah and Doval, he raised security concerns as Punjab is a border state. “There are issues related to security, which I raised. For the last four years, I have been seeing what is happening in Punjab. Drones are coming (from across the border) on a daily basis. There are those which are intercepted, but there may be others which one does not know where they are going…all these issues are related to national security,” he said.
Channi was recently picked as the leader of the state’s Congress Legislative Party. He was sworn-in as the chief minister on September 20.