Updated: June 10, 2021 5:13:05 pm
With the three-member committee, formed by the Congress high command to tackle infighting in the Punjab unit, busy giving final touches to its report, five out of eight Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab met CM Amarinder Singh Wednesday and reposed faith in his leadership. The expression of support by five MPs came close on the heels of three Cabinet ministers from the Majha region meeting Congress incharge and panel member Harish Rawat Tuesday to press for their demands.
According to sources, Cabinet ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria met Rawat and demanded a leadership change ahead of Assembly polls next year. This despite panel members having made it clear more than once earlier that leadership change was not part of their mandate. The meeting, which took place in Delhi on Tuesday, was being seen as a last ditch attempt by the rebel camp to show “strength and unity”, said sources.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur, Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Gill, Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Choudhary, Fatehgarh Sahib MP Dr Amar Singh, and MP from Faridkot, Mohammad Sadiq, called on the CM at his residence to discuss election strategy for forthcoming polls. A statement released by the state government later said that the MPs stated that people of Punjab “only want Captain Amarinder Singh as their Chief Minister for another term”.
According to the statement, the MPs said that “Congress party will fight the next polls by taking Captain Amarinder Singh-led government’s flagship programmes and policies to the grassroots more aggressively”.
“Underscoring full faith in Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s leadership Punjab MPs today reiterated that Congress would comfortably sweep 2022 assembly polls to carry forward party’s ongoing developmental agenda for people of the state,” a government statement said.
Sources said that among the remaining three MPs, MP Manish Tewari had met CM earlier in Delhi and the other two MPs, G S Aujla and Ravneet Bittu, had called on Amarinder on Monday.
The fast-paced political developments came amid the committee preparing to submit its report to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday. However, it was yet to do so till late the filing of this report.
“It is being finalised,” said a source in the party high command.
According to sources, Cabinet ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, went to Delhi to convey to the committee that “the three ministers had support from other ministers and MLAs and they were all together”.
A source close to the ministers revealed that they told Rawat that “they were not claimants for the CM’s post as was being projected, but the government was in bad shape. They told Rawat that they will accept anybody’s leadership, who is a dyed-in-wool Congressman.”
The meeting also holds significance amid reports that a few ministers may be dropped from the Cabinet.
The source added: “They also told Rawat that there was an impression being created that the ministers, who had raised a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, were divided now and a few had gone back to support Amarinder. The ministers told Rawat that they did not want to bring MLAs and other leaders along for a show a strength due to a fear of a witch-hunt being launched.”
The three ministers who met Rawat are among six who had decided to boycott the last Cabinet meeting pending report by the high command panel. They had later attended the meeting after their presence was specifically sought by the CM.
These ministers had also questioned their own government in front of the panel, it is learnt.
Know as the Majha brigade in Congress circles, the trio was instrumental in launching a rebellion against former PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa prior to the last Assembly election. They had backed Amarinder to the hilt at that point of time and the high command had to name Amarinder as the PPCC chief in December 2015.
Randhawa, who was a confidant of Amarinder, had also met party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu recently. Sarkaria was also considered solidly on CM’s side, but he is now with Randhawa and Bajwa.
Sources said that over 50 MLAs had not supported their government in front of the committee and expressed dissatisfaction over its working.
“The committee’s mandate is only to listen to the MLAs, MPs, PPCC chief, CM, and other leaders. It has not been mandated to make any recommendations. It has heard about 150 leaders and a voluminous report has been prepared with the comments of all leaders. An extensive exercise has been done like never before. A number of such committees have been formed by the Congress, but such voluminous report has never been submitted,” a source revealed.
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