Game of Thrones in Punjab: Sonia Gandhi and High Command on Amarinder Singh

ArticleGame of Thrones in Punjab: Sonia Gandhi and High Command on Amarinder...


Game of Thrones in Punjab: Sonia Gandhi and High Command on Amarinder Singh

By Shashank Suresh

Amarinder Singh wrote Sonia Gandhi a letter hours before resigning as Punjab chief minister, in which he expressed his desire for the best for the Congress and Punjab, despite his pain. He also enumerated his government’s accomplishments over the previous several years in the letter. In the 2017 Punjab assembly elections, his party won a nearly two-thirds majority under his leadership.

He had been in charge of the administration for 4.5 years until cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu launched a persistent campaign for Amarinder’s removal, culminating in his abrupt departure. Amarinder made a last-ditch attempt by summoning a conference of party MLAs at his farmhouse outside Chandigarh just before tendering his resignation to Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit. However, just a few MLAs showed there, indicating that he had lost control of the party and the government.

According to sources, the Gandhi twins, Rahul and Priyanka, decided to remove him after-party MLAs in Punjab repeatedly urged them to replace the leadership in Punjab due to Amarinder’s alleged non-performance. The party agreed to host a CLP meeting on Saturday in response to a recent letter by 40 party MLAs to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, requesting her to bring in new leadership in Punjab ahead of the elections.

It was decided unanimously at the CLP meeting, attended by Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat, and two central party observers Harish Chaudhary and Ajay Maken, that Sonia Gandhi would choose Amarinder’s replacement, which is expected to be announced soon.

According to sources, Rawat convened a separate meeting with party observers after the CLP conference finished at Punjab Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh to decide on Captain’s successor. Following Sonia’s announcement of the future CLP leader, the party will seek the governor to be appointed as the next chief minister. Rawat told the reporters after the CLP meeting that 78 of the party’s 80 MLAs unanimously supported a resolution authorizing Sonia Gandhi to choose the new CLP leader. 

“Once she decides on the new CLP leader,” he added, “we will communicate.” Meanwhile, following Amarinder’s resignation, Suresh Kumar, Amarinder’s principal secretary, and Sandeep Sandhu’s political secretary, resigned. According to a press statement from the governor’s office, Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit accepted Captain Amarinder Singh’s and his council of ministers’ resignations.

Read also: Punjab Cong issue: Late night strategy meet by Rahul with Ambika, Venugopal

Navjot Singh Sidhu Influencing High Command

Navjot Singh Sidhu met Sonia Gandhi earlier that day at her New Delhi residence. This meeting is held before the party’s revision of the Punjab unit and reports that Sidhu can play an essential role. Following the meeting, Punjab’s Congress Party leader Harish Rawat stated Sonia Gandhi has still to decide on the matter, and that she will discuss it shortly after that.

When Rawat asked if a decision was taken to nominate Sidhu as the Chief of the Punjab Congress, “Who says that?” “I’ve come here to provide my Punjab letter to the Congressional Chief and I’ll come and share it with you as soon as the decision is made by the President of the Congress,” Rawat added.

Looking Back at Amarinder’s Performance

Amarinder’s second term as chief minister was viewed as a failure by political experts and party insiders, who turned other party members against him. Previously, he had no bitter rivals inside the party. However, with Sidhu’s ascension, he lost his former supporters and control of the party and the government he was leading. Captain’s dismissal is due to several factors. The first is his lack of performance, and the second is rising discontent inside the party over his reliance on the bureaucracy rather than political leaders throughout his tenure as chief minister.

Third, his relationship with the Gandhi family has deteriorated due to his refusal to follow the party line on critical national problems. The restoration of the Jallianwala Bagh was the most recent problem. While Rahul Gandhi slammed the government for it, Amarinder Singh’s nonchalant statement that the refurbishment was good showed that he had lost interest in the Gandhi family.

The quarrel in the Punjab Congress began in April when Sidhu slammed Amarinder for failing to take intense action on the sacrilege problem, the drug campaign, and numerous other matters of more significant public concern. As a result, the cricketer-turned-politician made an open plea to the Congress high leadership for assistance.

On May 28, Sonia created a committee including Rajya Sabha LoP Mallikarjun Kharge, ex-Delhi MP J.P. Agarwal, and AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab Harish Rawat to stop factionalism in the party’s Punjab branch. Since then, the panel has visited with various stakeholders, including MLAs, ministers, and the chief minister, to get their perspectives on the upcoming assembly elections in 2022. Despite Amarinder’s protestations, Sonia selected Sidhu as the head of the Punjab Congress on July 18. Despite his appointment, the Congress could not calm the seas, as Sidhu maintained his assaults on the state’s Amarinder Singh-led Congress administration.

Read also: Who ‘surprised’ betrayal should be ready for ‘shock’: Punjab CM’s Press Secy

Future Ahead?

Several candidates have been floated for the chief ministerial role ahead of the CLP conference, including Sidhu and Sunil Jakhar, the former president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Jakhar sent a tweet before the CLP meeting praising Rahul Gandhi on his courageous move.

Amarinder’s supporters, on the other side, are urging him to exact vengeance. He went on to say that the allegations of non-performance are “false and manufactured,” and that he has taken severe action, including placing many police personnel on the contempt list. He claimed that his administration took significant measures to disrupt the drug mafia’s supply chain. 

Raghav Chadha, AAP’s co-in charge of Punjab, told the media that the state’s government has been the most significant casualty in Congress’s “Game of Thrones.” “Today’s Congress is a sinking ship, with its leaders battling for their own personal benefit. It has left the state with no vision. Punjabis will educate them about the next election.” According to SAD’s senior leader Daljeet Singh Cheema, nothing can now save Congress from loss in Punjab.

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