‘Sidhu anti-national’, Amarinder Singh says he will fight move to make him chief minister

Chandigarh (IANS): Dubbing Navjot Sidhu as anti-national, dangerous, unstable, incompetent and a security threat to the state and the country, Amarinder Singh on Friday said he will fight any move to make the Punjab Congress President the chief minister “tooth and nail.”

Making it clear that he had no intention of quitting politics, Amarinder Singh said there was no question of supporting Sidhu, who was clearly mixed up with Pakistan and a danger, as well as a disaster, for Punjab and the country.

“I cannot allow such a man to destroy us, I will continue to fight the issues that are bad for his state and its people,” said the outgoing Chief Minister, lashing out at Sidhu for his close alliance with the leadership across the border.

“We have all seen Sidhu hugging Imran Khan and [Pakistan Army Chief] General [Qamar Javed] Bajwa, and singing praises for the Pakistan Prime Minister at the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor while our soldiers were being killed at the borders every day,” he said, pointing out that the ex-cricketer had attended Imran’s swearing-in even after he (Amarinder Singh) categorically told him not to.

“The government of Punjab means the security of India, and if Sidhu is made the face of the Congress for chief ministership, I will fight him at every step,” he added.

Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu.

In a series of media interviews, Amarinder Singh, who has been asked by the Governor to continue in office as Chief Minister till alternative arrangements are made, said Sidhu could never be a good leader for Punjab.

“How can a man who could not handle a ministry handle the state?” he asked, adding that there was no question of backing an incompetent man whom he had removed from his cabinet.

As Local Government minister, Sidhu failed to clear files for seven months, he said.

Amarinder Singh ruled out leaving politics and said that as an army man, he has a lot of will and will remain active in the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab. “I am not hanging my boots,” he declared, reiterating that he will decide on his future course of action after talking to people close to him, including MLAs of the Congress, which Sidhu had divided just months ahead of the polls.

He revealed that he had himself asked MLAs who were supporting him to attend the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meet, and the presence of the large number of legislators at the meeting did not mean they were supporting Sidhu.

Rejecting claims by the Congress leadership that he had lost the confidence of the MLAs, Amarinder Singh termed it a lame excuse. “Just a week ago, I had sent to Sonia Gandhi a list of 63 MLAs who were supporting me,” he said, adding that MLAs usually respond to what they think Delhi wants, which was the case at the CLP meeting too.

“In any case, it is not possible to make all MLAs happy,” he added.

Pointing to the sweeping wins by the Congress under his leadership since 2017, Amarinder Singh said he failed to understand the decision by the party to replace him.

“The people of Punjab were clearly happy with my government,” he said, adding till three-four months ago, the tide was completely in favour of the Congress in Punjab but “they have cut their nose to spite their face, and ended up from a winning to a losing position”.

Expressing pain and shock at the way he was humiliated into quitting, Amarinder Singh said, “Even today, I was not informed about the CLP meeting even though I was the leader. The way everyone was called in the night and informed about the meeting, it was clear they wanted to remove me as CM.”

He said he felt sad and humiliated that his contribution to the state was not recognised, and he had been misread despite having done the best for it, including on the sacrilege and drugs issues.


Sukhbir Singh Badal. (Photo: IANS)

MEANWHILE, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Saturday that Amarinder Singh’s resignation from the post of Punjab Chief Minister is a self-admission on the part of the Congress and its high command that the party has failed to perform and has nothing to show in its more than four-and-a-half years of governance.

Asserting that this is a testimony to what the SAD has been stating all along, Badal said Amarinder Singh has been punished by nature for lying with ‘Gutka Sahib’ in hand and that every member of the Congress would suffer the same fate.

He said a mere change of guard would not save the Congress’ sinking ship in Punjab adding that the entire state Cabinet as well as Congress MLAs are steeped in corruption and are running various kinds of mafia rackets, including sand, liquor and drugs mafias.

“The Congress cannot hope to save its incompetent government and befool the Punjabis with a mere change in face,” the SAD chief said.

Badal said the devious ploy of the Congress high command to avert a backlash against the party by putting the blame on one person alone would not succeed.

“Punjabis know that the entire Congress in Punjab is known for open loot and lawlessness. Its ministers and MLAs patronised gangsters. Its ministers looted the state exchequer of thousands of crores of rupees. It failed to undertake any development or infrastructure projects in the state,” he said.

Badal said Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi siblings — Rahul and Priyanka — could also not escape responsibility for making Punjabis suffer for more than four-and-a-half years.

“First of all, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were the force behind the election manifesto of the Congress for the 2017 Assembly elections. The Gandhi family not only kept Amarinder Singh in power, but also failed to move against any of his corrupt ministers. It also failed to prevail upon Amarinder Singh to fulfil the promises made to the people. Amarinder’s failure is the failure of Sonia Ganhi and Rahul Gandhi,” Badal said in a statement.


Rahul Gandhi

THE Punjab crisis which began with Amarinder Singh’s festering feud with Navjot Sidhu, who was appointed the state party chief in July, despite stiff resistance from the captain, is believed to be at the behest of Rahul Gandhi, as the feud between Amarinder Singh and Rahul Gandhi began when the latter wanted to back Pratap Singh Bajwa in the run up to Assembly elections in 2017.

However, stiff resistance from the Amarinder camp forced the Congress to announce him as chief minister candidate. Bajwa was however made state Congress chief but time and again problems between Rahul Gandhi and Amarinder Singh cropped up as the Punjab CM was not in sync with the close aides of Rahul Gandhi, leaders in the know of things have told IANS.

Amarinder Singh said he has been humiliated not once, or twice but thrice, which turned out to be a breaking point for him and the team led by Rahul Gandhi. He said that he has been in politics for 52 years and as a Chief Minister for 9.5 years, but months ahead of elections, the Congress gamble may prove counter productive as he was long credited for the farmers agitation and countering the union government.

After quitting the chief minister’s post of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh said that the “future options are open”. He said he will talk to his supporters as he said he was feeling humiliated in the Congress party.

Since Rahul Gandhi had made up his mind to remove the Captain, was evident as even after stiff resistance from Amarinder Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed as the state party chief and to complete the task from behind the scene was Harish Chaudhary, who is Revenue Minister in Rajasthan and was Secretary Punjab Affairs.

But it seems Amarinder Singh has not given up and during elections, he may make a comeback. Having defeated Arun Jaitley in 2014 polls, he is a tough man to bow down easily as many in the Congress symphathise with him as his son Raninder hinted, “I am proud to accompany my father to Raj Bhavan when he submits his resignation as CM of Punjab and leads us as head of our family into a new beginning et all.”

Just minutes ahead of the crucial Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting on Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reached the Governor’s house and submitted his and his council of ministers resignation and said, “I told Congress President that I will be resigning today. Did they have an element of doubt that I couldn’t run the government, I feel humiliated. Whoever they have faith in, can be made chief minister.”