Days after former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh stated that he was humiliated by the Congress, party general secretary in charge of the state Harish Rawat countered his statement and said Amarinder was “always kept in high esteem by the party” and “was given free hand but he failed to deliver.” He added that the Punjab government led by Charanjit Singh Channi was stable.
In a statement Friday, Rawat said, “Congress has always kept Captain Amarinder Singh and his family in high esteem. Even after suffering a crushing defeat from Patiala Constituency in 1998, he was inducted into the Congress party and immediately appointed by Sonia Gandhi as the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee on three occasions from 1999 to 2002, 2010 to 2013 and 2015 to 2017. Twice, the Congress party made him the Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007 and 2017 to 2021. As the Chief Minister, he was given a complete free hand.”
Rawat said despite continuous reminders from his colleagues and the leadership, “unfortunately, Amarinder failed to keep his promises on important issues like Bargadi, drugs, electricity etc. There was a general perception throughout the state that Captain and the Badals are helping each other, and they have a secret understanding. I was always politely suggesting him to initiate action on our election promises. At least five times I discussed these issues with Captain sahib but with no result.”
Rawat further stated, “The whole Bargadi issue was mishandled by trusted lieutenants of Amarinder Singh. In cabinet meetings there were heated discussions on this issue and later, many prominent ministers came to Delhi with a complaint that now with Amarinder Singh at the helm of affairs, Congress cannot win the elections.”
To find a solution, the Congress high command formed a three-member panel under the chairmanship of veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge. This panel heard more than 150 prominent leaders, including MLAs, MPs, ex-MLAs, ex-MPs, PCC president, ex-PCC presidents, Youth Congress, NSUI, Mahila Congress and Sewa Dal leaders, he said.
After prolonged discussions, the former Chief Minister agreed to implement decisions on 18 points (which included the Bargadi desecration issue, drugs menace, power tariff) suggested by the panel to the Congress president. In this meeting, an overwhelming majority of MLAs clearly expressed their dissatisfaction with the Captain Amarinder Singh administration’s style of functioning and quite a good number suggested his immediate replacement, Rawat added.
He went on to say that Amarinder, however, did not implement even one out of the 18 points. The panel then summoned him again and a time-bound course of implementation was discussed and mutually agreed upon. But after returning to Chandigarh, Amarinder forgot his promises to the panel and to the Congress President once again.
“Born out of his stubbornness, he was of the belief that he does not need any advice from anyone, including his own MLAs and ministers and party leadership. However, again I went to Captain Amarinder Singh at his house and had a lengthy discussion with him along with his officials. We came down to five points which he promised to implement within the next 10 days. After this, 20 days passed, and we didn’t hear anything from him. The Congress MLAs and ministers were getting restless,” Rawat pointed out.
The senior Congress leader said the rebellion happened after all this. “…in a written letter to the party leadership, 43 MLAs told the party that despite repeated efforts we could not get anything done by Captain Amarinder Singh, so please call a CLP (Congress Legislative Party) meeting otherwise we are going to call a separate meeting. Then I tried to contact Amarinder Singh ji thrice, but I could not get him on telephone. Then through one of his well-wishers I sent him a message that there is a demand for a CLP meeting, and we have no option but to call the CLP meeting. Despite getting the message, Captain Amarinder Singh didn’t bother to telephone me,” he said.
“Then I suggested to the party high command that if we delay the matter then many MLAs may form a separate group or may create some more problem for the party. It was then decided to call a CLP meeting. I then officially informed Captain Amarinder Singh that the party has called a CLP meeting and requested him to attend the meeting,” Rawat explained. Amarinder had said that the party had not officially informed him about the CLP meeting.
In response, the former chief minister instead called a separate meeting at his residence on the day of the CLP meeting. Before that, the Congress chief also spoke to Amarinder about the complaints signed by 43 MLAs and the CLP meeting. Amarinder offered to resign and there was no other option than to choose a new CLP leader, Rawat said.
Before choosing a new CLP leader, the 78 MLAs present (out of the total 80) passed a unanimous resolution praising Captain Amarinder Singh and thanking him for his leadership of the state Congress as well as the CLP. How does this sequence of events suggest that anybody intended to humiliate him, asked Rawat, adding that no humiliation was done to him.
“In the democratic party, all democratic procedures were followed and the party chose a chief minister who comes from a humble background. It was expected from Captain Amarinder Singh to bless him and for that purpose I tried thrice to meet him, even I used the services of some of our common friends also for meeting him at his residence, but he denied to meet me. The newly appointed chief minister also asked for his blessing, and he said that he will call him for lunch or tea, but nothing has happened,” said Rawat, pointing out that the chief minister tried to contact him several times, but in vain.
“After meeting Amit Shah and the BJP’s contact man, the theory of humiliation is being circulated to gain the sympathy of the people. The humiliation-based sympathy politics may help a person, but it will not help Punjab. Captain Amarinder was controlling both the government and the party from his farmhouse (home). No one asks him a question regarding his absence from the secretariat, visits in the districts,” said the statement.
“For stability, Congress has a massive majority in the assembly and with Charanjit Singh Channi as the Chief Minister. The Congress Government is strong in its resolve and capable of fulfilling hopes and aspirations of the people of Punjab. We assure the people of Punjab that governance has started to change for the better, and the best will be seen in the coming few weeks,” he said.