The internal rift within the Congress Punjab widened further on Tuesday after nearly 30 MLAs, including four cabinet ministers, openly revolted against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and declared that they no longer have faith in his ability to deliver on election promises.
Ahead of the assembly elections in Punjab, the Congress party is in deep trouble in Punjab as some of its MLAs have now reportedly expressed their discontent against Captain Amarinder’s leadership. At least 30 MLAs, including four powerful ministers, have now dissented against the Chief Minister saying that they do not trust him anymore.
The dissenting MLAs had gathered at Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa’s residence in Chandigarh on Tuesday seeking change in the party leadership just ahead of the crucial polls. The majority of the rebel MLAs are believed to be supporters of Navjot Singh Sidhu in his ongoing leadership battle against Singh.
The rebel MLAs said that the Chief Minister has failed to resolve the issues in Punjab and accused him of not fulfilling poll promises made during the 2017 state election.
Interestingly, the rebel MLAs has also met Navjot Singh Sidhu, who later in the day, tweeted that he held an emergency meeting with Tript Rajinder Bajwa.
Got a call from Tripat Bajwa ji asking for an emergency meeting… Met him along with other colleagues at the PPCC office.— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) August 24, 2021
Will appraise the high command of the situation. pic.twitter.com/n98QacvQhd
The rebel camp has accused Captain Amarinder Singh of being “hand in glove with Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal. It is being said that the full-scale revolt against Amarinder Singh has intensified after Navjot Singh Sidhu was made the state Congress chief.
A five-member committee representing the dissenting camp is scheduled to meet the Congress high command in New Delhi to seek Amarinder’s removal, just six months ahead of assembly polls in Punjab. Interestingly, the rebel camp has not yet named their choice for the alternate leader if Captain Amarinder Singh is replaced.
Jails and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Technical education and Industrial Training Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Revenue minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh joined Bajwa in demanding Amarinder’s removal. The rebel MLAs fear that they might be dropped from the cabinet in the reshuffle as they are in Sidhu’s camp.
Currently, Congress has 80 MLAs in the 117-seat Punjab assembly.
“If the high command does not listen to us, we will decide the next course of action,” Bajwa threatened the party leadership on Tuesday. Responding to the question on the alternate leader, Bajwa said it was the high command’s decision to pick a new CM. His colleague Channi said, “We are not getting solutions to our problems from this chief minister.”
Questioning Amarinder’s ability to lead the government, Randhawa, who was once very close to the CM, said, “Wars cannot be fought by sitting in a drawing-room or just by tweeting. Wars are fought on the ground. Day by day, SAD and AAP are attacking Congress on the Bargari sacrilege issue. People ask us about the cancellation of the power purchase agreements and other unfulfilled promises.”
The rebel MLA also alleged that Amarinder would not meet his cabinet colleagues, but always found time to be part of gatherings in Amritsar and other places.
Sidhu vs Captain tussle escalates
The tensions between Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Navjot Singh Sidhu have been building up since the last few weeks. A few days back, the tussle took another turn after the later slammed Singh-led government in Punjab and hailed BJP-ruled states for higher State Assured Prices(SAP) for Sugarcane.
Navjot Sidhu on Monday had posted a tweet calling for an increase in State Agreed Price (SAP) for sugarcane in Punjab, asserting that despite the higher cost of cultivation in the state, the SAP is lower than that received by farmers in BJP ruled states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“The sugarcane farmers issue needs to be immediately resolved amicably…Strange that despite the higher cost of cultivation in Punjab the state assured price is too low as compared to Haryana/UP/Uttarakhand. As a torchbearer of agriculture, the Punjab SAP should be better!” Sidhu tweeted.
Sidhu’s tweet came in the wake of indefinite protests carried out by thousands of farmers and sugarcane producers affiliated to nearly 32 farmers’ organisations demanding the clearance of pending dues of sugarcane and enhancement in the State Agreed Price(SAP).
As many as 20,000 farmers participated in the protests on the first day of the agitation on the Dhanowali Road on the Jalandhar-Phagwara highway on Friday. Many farmers sat on dharna on rail tracks also.
The latest fight once again brought to fore the infighting within the Punjab Congress unit, with Sidhu and Singh allegedly involved in a perpetual tussle to exert their dominance over the party.