Before a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) in Punjab this evening, the party’s high command has asked Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to resign to facilitate the election of a new leader. The beleaguered chief minister will but not go without a fight.
Sources said Amarinder Singh had spoken to INC president Sonia Gandhi this morning, telling her he felt humiliated and that he would instead resign from the party.
The man in charge of the AICC for Punjab affairs, Harish Rawat tweeted late on Friday night: “A meeting of the CLP has been convened at 5 pm on 18th September at Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee office. The AICC directs the PPCC to facilitate this meeting. All Congress MLAs of Punjab are requested to kindly attend this meeting.”
Sources said former PCC president Sunil Jakhar, once an associate of the Singh, is among the names the INC high command is considering for the chief minister’s post.
The AICC arrived at the decision after a section of Punjab Congress MLAs, including some ministers, most of whom are detractors of Chief Minister Singh, had been continuously pressing for a change in the guard at the helm of the state’s administrative affairs.
There are two different versions of the Gandhi-Singh telephone conversation. Sources said Gandhi had called him in the morning and told him about the party’s wish. He is likely to submit his resignation shortly, a source privy to the development said.
Another source said he has told her he will leave the party.
It is learnt that the top party leadership got into action this morning to convey the wish of the party high command and the Punjab Congress MLAs.
Soon after Rawat’s tweet, Sidhu tweeted too, saying, “As per the AICC directive, Congress Legislative Party meeting has been convened at PPCC office in Chandigarh.”
The INC had, Saturday midnight, announced that a CLP meeting would be held after a representation from party MLAs. Sources said a one-line resolution would be passed in the CLP authorising the INC president to nominate the CLP leader, a source said.
The MLAs demanding a CLP meeting have been taking the plea that they wish to discuss the party’s strategy for the 2022 assembly elections. They have been approaching the party high command with the demand. At the same time, the CM’s camp has not been keen on giving the MLAs such a platform.
Many MLAs have been hoping to raise issues, which could embarrass the INC government during the assembly session a special session lasting no longer than a day may mitigate the possible disaster. There is still no word on holding a longer session despite demand from within Punjab Congress.
The crisis in Punjab Congress, brewing for months now, had worsened last month after nearly two dozen party MLAs, including four cabinet ministers, declared an open revolt against Amarinder and said that they had no faith that he would be able to fulfil the poll promises. They accused the chief minister also of conspiring with Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
A section of Punjab Congress leaders who had begun to focus on their constituencies over the past few weeks believe that there could be a fresh round of slugfest between various groups in the state unit.
The disgruntled cabinet ministers, most of whom have been skipping cabinet meetings, had faced a setback when Rawat last month had made it clear that the 2022 state assembly polls would be contested under Amarinder’s command. However, he had immediately changed his stance when challenged by Punjab MLA Pargat Singh.
Amarinder has been trying to garner the support of party MPs and MLAs too — with a series of meetings.
Since Rawat’s last visit to Chandigarh in early September, Sidhu has refrained from open criticism of the chief minister and the state government. Rawat tagged both Sidhu and Amarinder in his tweet.
It appears that the party is planning to nominate the next chief minister soon and is also preparing for the swearing-in before the inauspicious days of pitripaksh begin.