Will oppose if Navjot Singh Sidhu is the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate, Captain Amarinder Singh said hours after resigning as chief minister of Punjab. Singh went on to say that he was not angry at the Congress party’s central leadership but felt “let down” and “humiliated”.
Captain Amarinder Singh (79) resigned as the chief minister of Punjab on Saturday. His resignation, along with that of his council of ministers, has been accepted by Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
Asked about whether he plans to retire from politics, Captain Amarinder Singh said, “I am ready for battle. I don’t back down from these types of things. I am the kind of man if someone gives me a hand, I take it. If somebody shows me a fist, I give it back. I am not ready to retire now. I will fight.”
Speaking to India Today in an exclusive interview, Captain Amarinder Singh explained why he told reporters that he felt “humiliated” as a result of the actions of the Congress party high command.
‘Wasn’t informed about CLP meet’
Referring to the Congress party’s decision to seek feedback from party MPs and MLAs from Punjab on three occasions, CM Amarinder Singh said, “That is a complete case of no-confidence in your chief minister and for me, when I’ve worked very hard and done a lot for my state, is a case of humiliation.”
“Humiliation is obviously when you [Congress high-command] don’t have confidence in your chief minister and when you’re calling MLAs and MPs and all to give their views as to how the chief minister is doing, that’s obviously a reflection on me that I am not doing my job and that, I don’t accept. I’ve done a damn good job, at least for my state,” Captain Amarinder Singh told India Today.
“I’m all set for battle. If somebody offers his hand, I take it. If somebody shows me a fist, I give one back. I’m not ready to retire. I will fight”: @capt_amarinder
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) September 18, 2021
Amarinder Singh went on to say that, as head of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) in Punjab, he was not informed about the CLP meeting held at the party HQ in Chandigarh on Saturday. He added that he only came to know about the CLP meet at around 8.30 am and spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi at around 10.15 am on Saturday to inform her of his decision to resign.
“She [Sonia Gandhi] said I am sorry Amarinder and I said it’s fine,” Captain Amarinder Singh said, recalling his conversation with the Congress president.
Asked whether he suspects the Congress high command of pushing him out, Amarinder Singh responded: “Obviously somebody has pushed me out; nobody else can push me out but the leadership in Delhi. Who is behind it, I don’t know.”
‘Not one of those who run to Delhi twice a week’
Captain Amarinder Singh goes on to say that he has visited Delhi on three occasions since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I met the Congress president twice. I never met Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi. I met Prime Minister and Home Minister twice on matters of national security and that’s it.”
“I am not one of those who run to Delhi twice a week,” Captain Amarinder Singh said, in what can be viewed as a jibe aimed at Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Amarinder Singh speaking to media after submitting his resignation to Governor on Saturday | PTI
Amarinder Singh also reacted to reports suggesting that he had lost the confidence of his party’s MLAs in Punjab. “This is a lame excuse,” said the 79-year-old.
“Look at it this way; ever since we came into power, have we lost an election in any way? Whether it is Parliament or whether it is local body or municipality or panchayat elections, we have swept everything. Surely that is the responsibility of the government. If the government has done its job, the people respond,” Captain Amarinder Singh said.
He added that 92 per cent of the promises he made in the 2017 manifesto have been completed.
‘Will oppose Sidhu tooth and nail’
Asked whether he would endorse PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu as Congress party’s chief ministerial face in Punjab, Amarinder Singh said in response: “I will oppose him tooth and nail”.
“I will never allow that man [Sidhu] to come. He is an anti-national element. I will not allow him. He is too mixed up with Pakistan,” Captain Amarinder Singh said. He then went on to recall Sidhu’s speech at Kartarpur which was full of praise for Pakistan PM Imran Khan as well as the cricketer-turned-politician’s controversial decision to hug Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa.
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) September 18, 2021
“He [Sidhu] has no support of any people. You will see that when the time comes. Yes, MLAs because most MLAs respond to what Delhi wants and they would be sitting at my house if they thought that’s what Delhi wants,” Amarinder Singh told India Today.
Captain Amarinder Singh added, “The man [Sidhu] is an incompetent man. He was the minister for local self-government; he never claimed his files for seven months. I’ve known him since he was three years old. The man is now a total disaster.”
‘Congress now sliding in Punjab’
“Until three months ago, we were returning to power. It is when they started this business of interaction and calling all these MLAs to Delhi. Now, we’re sliding and yes our position is not nice. I sent a report to Mrs Gandhi two weeks ago saying that we’re heading downhill,” Captain Amarinder Singh said.
Asked about his views on Sunil Jakhar as his replacement, Amarinder Singh told India Today, “Sunil Jakhar was my PCC president when I was chief minister. I don’t know why they removed him to make way for this fellow [Sidhu].”
I don’t know whether my resignation will benefit either the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, he added.
‘Never thought that a Plan-A would be necessary’
“I will take into account all my supporters, whether in Parliament or Assembly or outside in politics, and then I will make a decision,” he said when asked about his future course of action.
Amarinder Singh was also asked whether he could form a new party and extend support to the BJP in Punjab. He says in response, “I never thought that Plan-A would be necessary. I thought everything would go fine. I didn’t expect what happened today.”
Responding to criticism of his time as chief minister, Amarinder Singh said he had expected allegations of “inaccessibility” but denied any other accusations.
Accepting that he had promised that the 2017 Punjab polls would be his last election, Captain Amarinder Singh told India Today, “I didn’t know then that Mr Sidhu was going to come to replace me. That man is a total disaster for my state and for the country.”
Pakistan planning something in Punjab: Amarinder Singh
“Punjab’s border with Pakistan is India’s border with Pakistan,” said Captain Amarinder Singh. He went on to add that he knows exactly how many pistols, grenades and heroin are flown into India from Pakistan using drones.
“Weapons are coming here for Diwali or what? Obviously, they [Pakistan] have some objective and what is their objective? Something is going to happen in Punjab and I’m concerned,” Captain Amarinder Singh said. He also said that if the need arises, he will meet with PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah again to bring such developments to their notice.