In a concerted move following state Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh’s decision to resign from the Lok Sabha in protest against the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) verdict by the Supreme Court on Thursday, the party’s all 43 legislators in Punjab decided to follow suit on Friday when they would personally hand over their resignations to Vidhan Sabha Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal after an emergent meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) called by CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi.
Congress had announced a few months ago that its MLAs would resign en masse if the SC verdict went against Punjab.
Congress has 42 MLAs in the House while Independent MLA Rajneesh Kumar Babbi is party’s associate member. The MLAs have already signed their resignation letters and handed these over to the PPCC, which spent the day calling up MLAs and preparing their letters.
Amarinder, who is also Congress’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, sent his resignation letter to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan as soon as the verdict on SYL was announced. The letter read: “The Centre as well as state government failed to come to the rescue of the people of Punjab in time to save them from the sorry plight into which they have been plunged by the apex court judgment. It is my moral duty, in the circumstances, to extend my solidarity to the people of Punjab and join them in their fight for justice.”
Amarinder is the only party MP out of three from Punjab to resign. A chief ministerial aspirant, he is likely to contest Assembly election from his pocket-borough and home town of Patiala. The two other MPs, Ravneet Singh Bittu from Ludhiana and Chaudhary Santokh from Jalandhar, have not resigned. Justifying this, Amarinder said, “Some of us have to fight for the cause of people in the Lok Sabha also.”
Several party leaders, however, termed the decision “hasty” and said the party should have thought it through before resigning because the move exposed the Congress camp to questions like why all the MPs should not resign and if Amarinder would vacate his official residence in Delhi immediately.
Earlier, Amarinder had resigned as MP in protest against Operation Blue Star in 1984 and from the cabinet of former CM Surjit Singh Barnala in 1986 in protest against Operation Black Thunder. “His three resignations would be a part of political discourse in Punjab in the run-up to Assembly elections,” said a Congress leader.
Addressing the media soon after the verdict, Amarinder demanded early Assembly elections and President’s rule in the state, stating that he feared CM Parkash Singh Badal would do something to disturb peace in the state for vote politics. “Let the election be held in December. We are ready,” Amarinder said.
What does the party plan to do after resignations? “After putting in our resignations, we will go to the people, seeking their support in returning us to the Assembly with a 2/3rd majority so that we can pass fresh legislation to remove the substratum or foundation of any judgment passed by a court of law with retrospective operation,” he told the media.
Warning that sharing of waters could create a law and order problem in the state and even revive terrorism, Amarinder said Punjab farmers, especially in the Southern Punjab. would be ruined. They were the ones who were being pushed to suicides, he said.
“I promise the people of Punjab that if voted to power, the Congress party will steer through and ensure the passing of such law to restore to the State of Punjab its rightful rights to the river waters,” he said.
On a question as to why the Congress was not considering giving a call to the SAD-BJP led government for a special Assembly session and pass a fresh legislation for the interest of Punjab, Amarinder said, “We had committed to people of Punjab that we would resign. So we have. The incumbent government was not able to do anything for last 10 years. If they were serious things would not have come to this.”
He reiterated that Haryana had no riparian rights on Sutlej river, just as Punjab had no such rights on Yamuna river.
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