Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, reportedly put on notice by the Congress ahead of an unprecedented meeting of MLAs called this evening, has told Sonia Gandhi he “can’t continue in the party with this kind of humiliation”, sources say.
The Congress, in a late night tweet, announced the emergency meeting citing “a representation from a large number of MLAs”. Sources say the party is under increasing pressure from its Punjab legislators to replace Amarinder Singh but he is not ready to resign.
Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, who posted the tweet, also tagged Rahul Gandhi, Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who retweeted the announcement.
The meeting, just days after the party brokered a tenuous detente between Amarinder Singh and his in-house rival Navjot Singh Sidhu, signaled a leadership change in the Punjab Congress government months before state polls.
A furious Amarinder Singh, say sources, told the party president, “This kind of humiliation is enough, this is happening for the third time. I can’t continue to stay in the party with this kind of humiliation.”
There have been several such scares for Amarinder Singh, aka “Captain”, over the past few months, with a section of MLAs revolting against him and keeping up pressure on the party.
Dissent was simmering within even as the Chief Minister carried on with his engagements, even cooking a spectacular feast for Olympics medal winners last week.
Today’s unscheduled meeting reportedly stunned the Captain.
The names of three leaders are in circulation, say sources, as possible replacements in case of a change – Sunil Jakhar, former Punjab Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa and Beant Singh’s grandson and MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.
Sunil Jakhar posted a triumphant tweet. “Kudos to Rahul Gandhi for adopting Alexandrian solution to this Punjabi version of Gordian knot. Surprisingly, this bold leadership decision to resolve Punjab Congress imbroglio has not only enthralled congress workers but has sent shudders down the spines of Akalis.”
The Chief Minister is reportedly meeting with MLAs loyal to him at his home in Mohali ahead of the big meet.
In July, despite the Chief Minister’s fierce resistance, the party appointed Navjot Sidhu its Punjab chief, but the acrimony stayed barely below the surface.
A row over advisers appointed by Mr Sidhu and their controversial statements threatened to undo that pact.
Last month, four ministers and around two dozen party legislators raised fresh complaints against Amarinder Singh, telling the leadership that they had no faith in his ability to honour poll promises.
On September 8, Mr Rawat, speaking to news agency ANI, said that the people assume party leaders in Punjab are fighting because the ”brave” leaders put forward their opinion strongly.
“Punjab is the land of braves. People there put their opinion very strongly there and it looks like they will fight. But, there is nothing like that, and they find solutions to their problems. Punjab Congress is solving their issues themselves. We are not doing anything,” the Congress leader said.
When asked about the relation between Amarinder Singh and Mr Sidhu, Mr Rawat said, “If there would be a dispute, it would be good for the Congress.”
The 117-member Punjab assembly will vote early next year