Updated: September 23, 2021 11:31:55 am
Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh Wednesday said he would field a candidate against Congress state president Navjot Singh Sidhu in the 2022 Assembly elections, while expressing “shock” at the way the party was being “run from Delhi”.
Speaking to reporters here, Amarinder asked how Congress leaders like K K Venugopal, Ajay Maken or Randeep Surjewala could decide who was good for which ministry in the state, adding that as CM, he had called the shots and appointed own ministers as he knew the capability of each of them.
New CM Charanjit Singh Channi, accompanied by Sidhu, was in the Capital on Tuesday to discuss Cabinet formation with the high command.
In a swipe at the selection of Channi, the first Scheduled Caste CM of Punjab, Amarinder said: “Our religions teaches us that all are equal. I don’t look at people based on their caste, it’s about their efficiency.”The senior leader said Sidhu seemed to be calling the shots in the new dispensation, and that a PCC chief should concentrate on party affairs. “I had a very good PPCC president, I took his advice, but he never told me how to run the government,” Amarinder said. Accusing Sidhu of having failed to manage as a minister in his government, he said, “If he behaves as the super CM, the party won’t function.”
Amarinder also warned the Congress that under this “drama master’s leadership”, implying Sidhu, it might not manage even touch double digits in the Punjab polls. While not specifying his future plans, Amarinder said he would only leave on a “high”.
“I was ready to leave after victory, but never after a loss,” he said, claiming that he had even told Sonia Gandhi after leading the Congress to a win in the 2017 Assembly elections to let someone else become CM. “But that did not happen… so I will fight,” he said.
Amarinder claimed he had repeated the offer three weeks earlier as well. “If she (Sonia) had just asked me to step down, I would have… As a soldier, I know how to do my task and leave.”
He questioned the way he had been subjected to “humiliation” instead, including by calling a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party without informing him. “I would not have taken MLAs on a flight to Goa or some place. That is not how I operate, I don’t do gimmicks, and the Gandhi siblings know that is not my way,” he said, adding, “Priyanka and Rahul are like my children… This should not have ended like this, I am hurt.” He said the two were “quite inexperienced” and their advisors were misguiding them.
On allegations of “inaccessibility” as CM, Amarinder said he had been elected to the Assembly seven times and to Parliament twice. “There must be something right with me,” he said, adding that the Congress leadership had evidently decided on making the change and was now trying to make up a case.
Referring to complaints that he did not take action against the Badals and relative Bikram Singh Majithia in sacrilege and drug cases, the former CM said he believed in allowing the law to take its course. “But now these people who were complaining against me are in power, let them throw the Akalis leaders behind bars if they can!” On him not taking action against ministers allegedly involved in the mining mafia, Amarinder said, “Those very ministers are now with these leaders!”
Promising to field a “strong” candidate against Sidhu in the elections, the veteran leader repeated that he was “dangerous for the state”. Channi was “intelligent” and “well-educated”, he said, but had no experience in managing home affairs, which he called critical for a border state. “The amount of weapons and ammunition coming into Punjab from Pakistan is alarming,” he said, again accusing Sidhu of “close personal relations with the Pakistani leadership”.
On Channi’s announcement of waiver of power bills, he said the CM must have discussed it and considered all the points. “I hope they don’t bankrupt the state.”
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