Stepping in decisively in the face of “massive” pressure against Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh from a section of Congress MLAs in the state, the party high command on Friday night convened an urgent meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) on Saturday.
This comes two days after several MLAs wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, making it clear that the government cannot move ahead in this fashion, a senior All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader told The Indian Express.
The letter, the party leader said, was very “strong in nature”. He said, “There was strong pressure. We could not have ignored the letter.”
Asked whether a change of guard was possible, the AICC leader did not rule it out and said, “We will have to wait and see what happens in the meeting.”
A senior state Congress leader, however, asked, “Why else would such an emergency meeting be convened.”
At 11.39 pm Friday, AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab, Harish Rawat, tweeted: “The AICC has received a representation from a large number of MLAs…requesting to immediately convene a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party of Punjab. Accordingly, a meeting of CLP has been convened at 5:00 PM on 18th September at Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee office. AICC directs PPCC to facilitate this meeting.”
He also posted that all Punjab Congress MLAs are “requested to kindly attend this meeting”.
Soon after Rawat’s tweet, state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tweeted that a CLP meeting will be convened at 5 pm Saturday.
Sources said Congress leaders Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary would be the central party’s observers at the CLP meeting; Rawat, too, would be present, it is learnt.
The Indian Express had on Thursday reported about the fresh rebellion brewing against Amarinder, and that several Congress MLAs have in a letter asked the party high command to convene a CLP meeting to devise a strategy for the next Vidhan Sabha elections, due in less than six months.
The letter did not mention anything about the Chief Minister but stated that among other issues, the 18-point agenda set for the Amarinder Singh government needs to be discussed.
Sources in the Congress high command said that surveys, both internal and conducted through external agencies, show that Amarinder’s popularity is on the wane but the central leadership is said to be in a dilemma over a change of guard.
In Punjab, the Congress camp was awaiting the announcement for the CLP meeting the entire day on Friday. Rawat had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday evening, and the decision to hold a CLP meet was taken during that meeting.
Four rebel Punjab ministers — Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria and Charanjeet Channi — are among the 40 MLAs who had signed the letter sent to Sonia on Wednesday. The four were part of the rebellion against Amarinder earlier as well. The fresh signature campaign was led by Bajwa and PPCC general secretary in-charge Pargat Singh.