Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has once again made it clear that he will not remain in the Indian National Congress (INC) and will form his own party soon. Denying reports of behind-the-scenes talks with his old party, the captain said that the time for such parleys had passed.
Expressing gratitude to INC interim president Sonia Gandhi for her “cooperation”, the captain said that he could no longer remain in the party.
Captain’s media adviser Raveen Thukral released the former chief minister’s statement on Twitter where the captain said, “Reports of backend talks with the INC are incorrect. The time for rapprochement is over. The decision to part ways with (the) party was taken after much thought and is final. I’m grateful to Sonia Gandhi ji for her support but will not stay in Congress now.”
The captain further said, “I will soon launch my own party and will hold talks for seat-sharing with the BJP, breakaway Akali factions and others for the Punjab elections of 2022 once the farmers’ issue is resolved. I want to build a strong collective force in the interest of Punjab and its farmers.”
The captain, who felt humiliated in Punjab Congress after a prolonged confrontation with Navjot Singh Sidhu, had resigned as the chief minister recently.
Captain worries his old party
The INC high command summoned Chief Minister Charanjit Channi to Delhi for the second consecutive day. He had returned to Punjab yesterday after meeting Rahul Gandhi.
In Delhi, Channi has met Ambika Soni and Ajay Maken. Meetings with several top leaders of the party have been lined up, according to sources in the party.
Channi is accompanied by Punjab Congress’s man in charge Harish Chaudhary. This churning in the party started after former Captain Amarinder Singh announced his resignation from the chief minister’s post.
If sources are to be believed, the way Captain Singh is manoeuvring has created a stir in the party high command. After his departure, the party leadership believes it could lose Punjab.
Congressmen believe if the captain is not able to do anything worthwhile by forming a new party, he will definitely dent into the traditional votes of the INC.
Until recently, the INC high command trusted Sidhu blindly but is now hurt by the maverick’s abrupt decision-making attitude. The stand on Sidhu changed after four ministers — Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Balbir Sidhu and Sham Sundar Arora — who were removed because of the captain, met Rahul Gandhi and shared information about the condition of Punjab Congress and Sidhu’s attitude after the captain has left.
Sources say that the attitude of the INC high command has changed. Sonia Gandhi is personally looking into l’affaire Captain Singh.
The high command is unhappy with Sidhu, sources said. There are only a few months left for the assembly election in Punjab. The Shiromani Akali Dal’s campaign is peaking. Arvind Kejriwal, the convener of the Aam Aadmi Party, has made several visits to the state while the ruling party is busy trying to settle the internal feud, sources said.
“The BJP sent a union minister to Chandigarh. So far, our score is zero. This has increased the concern of the high command,” a senior party leader said.
The INC bears in mind Sidhu’s sudden resignation on an earlier occasion, the leader said. He said that Sidhu’s letter to Sonia Gandhi posted on social media was “particularly objectionable”.
“Sidhu distanced himself from building the organisation here despite that being his prime job responsibility,” the leader observed. “The high command summoned the chief minister to discuss these issues,” he added.
The INC is keeping an eye on every step of the captain who had gone straight to Delhi after the press conference where he had announced his resignation, noted another leader.
While Union Home Minister Amit Shah is busy with a 31 October event in Gujarat, sources said the INC wanted to capitalise on the “opportunity”.
The INC is keen to stop the captain from leaving the INC so that he does not harm Punjab by forming a new party. Amarinder Singh is technically still in the INC.