Updated: August 25, 2021 7:39:09 am
JUST over a month after the Congress high command made Navjot Singh Sidhu the Punjab chief touting it as a formula to keep the peace in the state unit, a fresh revolt is in the works. Thirty-four Congress MLAs, of the party’s 80, held a meeting along with other party leaders here Tuesday, following which at least four ministers claimed a demand had been raised to replace Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, adding they had “lost confidence in him”.
Sidhu and the four working presidents appointed with him stayed away from the meeting, held at Cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa’s official residence. However, later, some of the MLAs present at the meeting went and met Sidhu at the Congress headquarters.
Another minister present at the meeting, Charanjeet Singh Channi, said six of them, including four ministers and Sidhu loyalist and general secretary Pargat Singh, will go to Dehradun to meet the Congress Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, and seek an appointment with AICC chief Sonia Gandhi. Channi said he, Bajwa, and ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria would be part of the delegation. Randhawa and Sarkaria were also present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Hours later, the CMO released a statement saying “seven of the 20-odd Punjab Congress MLAs and ex-MLAs” present at the meeting had distanced themselves from claims of a “festering revolt” and vowed support to Amarinder — including, it said, MLAs Kuldeep Vaid, Dalvir Singh Goldy, Santokh Singh Bhalaipur, Angad Singh, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Gurkirat Singh Kotli, and former MLA Ajit Singh Mofar.
Raja Warring told The Indian Express, “I was a part of the meeting but neither do I want to say I was a part of the resolution seeking the CM’s ouster, nor that I was not a part of that resolution. Also, I do not want to say whether I am in favour of the demand, or I am not in favour of that demand.”
Kotli, however, contested the CMO’s claim, saying he stood by the meeting’s demand to remove Amarinder.
The CMO statement also said Mofar had denied being present at the meeting, and said he had gone only to meet one of the Cabinet ministers there, and that Angad had said he had gone to discuss cooperative elections in his constituency.
Bajwa, however, claimed that not only were all the 34 MLAs present at the meeting opposed to the CM, but that they had support of 46 in all. “We got calls from many MLAs today, but they were stuck… The DGP is Captain’s man… Some people do not want any action against them for being seen with us,” he told The Indian Express.
He added that while they had not invited Sidhu, they had informed him about the meeting for which invites went out Monday evening and that Sidhu had no idea of the agenda. Incidentally, there has been talk since the past couple of days of Congress leaders unhappy with Amarinder holding a meeting in the presence of Sidhu and passing a resolution claiming loss of confidence in the CM. Sources said this was the plan Tuesday, but it came unstuck when lesser MLAs than the organisers had expected turned up.
Attacking Amarinder, Bajwa said, “There is a quid pro quo between the Chief Minister and the Akalis. No work is being done, no promises fulfilled. We have no option but to seek his replacement. We will bring to the notice of the high command that the CM has lost our trust.”
Sidhu tweeted that Bajwa had sought an “emergency meeting” with him, and that he would soon update the high command of the “situation”.
Minister Randhawa said the Amarinder government had “outsourced” work to bureaucrats. “Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal told me he had got in touch with the CM thrice to raise sugarcane farmers’ issue and told him they would protest. But nobody cared. Had the issue been sorted, the highway in Punjab may not have been jammed and the people inconvenienced.”
Another minister, Channi, said, “The MLAs have lost confidence in the CM and his working. We are going to seek his replacement.”
Pargat Singh said they wanted to tell the high command about how the MLAs were not satisfied with the CM’s functioning. “Let the high command send observers to Chandigarh and meet legislators giving one minute to each, and ask a simple question, whether they are in favour of the CM staying on or not. I can assure you 79 out of 80 MLAs, except the CM himself, will seek his ouster. This is my feedback.”
The CMO statement condemned attempts to trigger revolt in the party ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections, and urged the party leadership to take immediate steps to stop this.
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