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Pushed to Punjab politics margins, Capt Amarinder likely to merge PLC with BJP

A former Congress veteran, Amarinder resigned from the membership of the grand old party in early November last year one-and-half months after he was unceremoniously replaced with Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM by the Congress leadership.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh/File)

The former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is likely to merge his Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming days upon his return from London, where the 80-year-old leader has been recuperating now following a spinal surgery.

A former Congress veteran, Amarinder resigned from the membership of the grand old party in early November last year one-and-half months after he was unceremoniously replaced with Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM by the Congress leadership in the wake of his protracted tussle with the then state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.

After quitting the Congress, Amarinder had floated the PLC in the run-up to the February 20 Punjab Assembly elections. It contested the polls in alliance with the BJP and the SAD (Sanyukt). As per their seat-sharing arrangement, the BJP contested on 65 seats, the PLC on 37 (with a number of candidates preferring to contest on the BJP symbol) and the SAD (Sanyukt) on 15 seats.

All PLC candidates lost badly in the polls, with Amarinder himself losing from Patiala, his bastion. The BJP managed to win two seats, while the SAD (Sanyukt), led by former Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, drawing a blank. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the elections, in which the Congress was decimated.

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Capt Amarinder has been in the political wilderness since the Punjab elections.

On the buzz about the PLC’s upcoming merger with the BJP, Amarinder’s political secretary Major Amardeep, speaking to The Indian Express from London, said, “Let’s wait and watch.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called to inquire about Amarinder’s health on June 27 following his surgery. “It was just a call to inquire about the well-being of Captain Sahib,” he said.

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The BJP national executive member, Harjit Grewal, however, asserted that the PLC’s merger with the BJP had been decided before Amarinder went to London and that it will be formally announced once he returns to the country.

“Before leaving for London (for treatment), he (Amarinder) had already conveyed that he will merge PLC with the BJP. We have common ideology of nationalism. He is very close to our ideology. We are also committed to nationalism and he also batted for nationalism,” Grewal told the Express.

Asked when this merger would take place, Grewal said, “It depends on when Capt Amarinder Singh returns. The surgery has been conducted at three points on his spine and it will depend when he can travel this long distance. It will depend on his doctors’ advice. The merger is already on the cards”, adding that “with this merger, BJP will get strengthened at the grass-roots level”.

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When pointed out that the PLC could not get much traction during the Punjab polls, Grewal said it was because “there was anti-incumbency against four-and-a-half years rule of Amarinder Singh as the CM”.

He also said: “BJP is strengthening itself for communal harmony in Punjab and to ensure that Punjab remains connected with national mainstream. So, all joining BJP in these efforts are welcome to join the party.”

First published on: 01-07-2022 at 08:07:20 pm
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