Two weeks after he was ousted as Punjab Chief Minister and said he was “humiliated” by the Congress, Captain Amarinder Singh is all set to launch his own political party, The Indian Express has learnt.
Sources in the Amarinder camp said he will have “leaders opposed to (Punjab Congress chief) Navjot Singh Sidhu” in the new outfit. “The Constitution of the new party is being prepared… We have been discussing four names. For now, we have zeroed in on Punjab Vikas Party (PVP). There is a consensus on the name but it is not final yet,” sources said.
In Dehradun, meanwhile, AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab Harish Rawat rejected Amarinder’s remark that he had been humiliated and said the Congress always held him “in high esteem”. Rawat also raised a question mark over Amarinder’s “secular credentials” following the former CM’s meeting Thursday with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.
On Thursday, Amarinder had said he would quit the Congress but not join the BJP. He had also said that he would field a strong candidate in the state elections next year against Sidhu, whose strident opposition led to his ouster.
Sources said Amarinder had earlier decided to hold a meeting of his supporters on Gandhi Jayanti but that has now been delayed. “We will hold a meeting soon. Several senior leaders are expected to join,” sources said.
“He (Amarinder) has told supporters that he will not go with the BJP. But this does not mean that we cannot get tacit support from BJP. Our politics is not for getting power, it is for preventing Sidhu from becoming Chief Minister. If our candidates are able to get even 3,000-4,000 votes, they can prove to be spoilers in a multi-corner contest that Punjab is likely to witness, with SAD and AAP in the fray. This can affect the prospects of Congress candidates,” said a supporter of Amarinder Singh.
This is not the first time that Amarinder is toying with the idea of floating his own party. When he had revolted against former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa in 2014-2015, he had decided with his supporters to launch a political party. However, the plan was shelved after a few of his supporters said at the time that they would not leave the Congress.
In Dehradun, Rawat took aim at Amarinder’s meeting with Shah. “His proximity to Amit Shah and some BJP leaders raises a question over his lifetime capital — his secular credentials,” he said.
Detailing the Congress’s ties with the Punjab leader, Rawat said that even after suffering a “crushing defeat” from Patiala in 1998, Amarinder was inducted into the party, appointed as president of its state unit on three occasions and twice made CM with a “completely free hand”.
Rawat claimed that despite reminders from colleagues and the leadership, Amarinder failed to keep his poll promises on important issues like the sacrilege case, the fight against drugs, electricity tariffs, etc. “There was a general perception throughout the state that Captain and the Badals are helping each other, and they have a secret understanding,” Rawat said.
According to Rawat, the sacrilege issue was “mishandled by trusted lieutenants” of Amarinder. He also claimed that many Punjab ministers came to Delhi with the complaint that with Amarinder at the helm, Congress would not be able to win the next state elections.
According to Rawat, 43 party MLAs told the leadership in a letter that despite repeated efforts they could not get anything done through the Chief Minister, and sought a Legislature Party meeting.
Rawat said he tried to contact Amarinder thrice but could not, and sent a message for a CLP meeting. “He didn’t bother to telephone me. Then I suggested to the party high command that if we delay, many MLAs may form a separate group or create more problems,” he said.
Rawat said Amarinder had himself offered to resign. “Before choosing a new CLP leader, a unanimous resolution was passed by all MLAs praising Amarinder and thanking him for giving leadership to the state Congress and CLP as chief minister. How does this sequence of events suggest that anybody intended to humiliate him? No humiliation was done to him,” he said.