Amarinder Singh Successor May Be Announced Today Amid Flurry Of Meetings


Punjab Congress: The Congress has 80 MLAs in the 117-member Punjab assembly (File)

Poll-bound Punjab will get a new Chief Minister today – a day after a “humiliated” Amarinder Singh resigned following a prolonged and bitter feud with Navjot Sidhu that has left the party fighting for survival in one of the few states it still rules.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. A meeting of the Congress Legislature Party has been postponed to 1 pm after Rajya Sabha MP Ambika Soni – believed to be the party’s first choice to replace Mr Singh – declined the offer. Sources said Ms Soni said “no” at a late-night meeting with Rahul Gandhi; she stressed on the “ramifications” of a non-Sikh leader of state, particularly with an election due in a few months.

  2. Today’s meeting of the CLP will be the second in as many days. Aware of its precarious position (and of the BJP, the AAP and the Akalis waiting to pounce), the Congress is keen to ensure the new Chief Minister has widest possible support. Sources have said the CLP will only be summoned once all party MLAs have been consulted and a shortlist of names acceptable to all is drawn up.

  3. Sukhjinder Randhawa, a cabinet minister and the MLA from Dera Baba Nanak is one of the names in the hat at this stage. Others include ex-state unit bosses Sunil Jakhar and Pratap Singh Bajwa. Ravneet Singh Bittu, the grandson of the late former Chief Minister Beant Singh, is also an option.

  4. Months of sniping and hostility between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu came to a head Friday night after a sudden meeting of MLAs was announced. Sources told NDTV around 50 of the party’s 80 MLAs wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi asking for the Captain to be replaced.

  5. Furious, Mr Singh spoke to Mrs Gandhi and told her he had put up with enough humiliation. “I was humiliated three times by Congress leadership in the past two months…they called MLAs to Delhi twice and convened CLP (MLAs’ meeting) today (Saturday)… they do not have confidence in me… did not think I could handle my job… now up to them to appoint anyone they trust,” he said.

  6. The Captain also told NDTV that although he had resigned, “… for the sake of my country, I’ll oppose his (Navjot Sidhu) name for Chief Minister of Punjab. It’s a matter of national security… is an incompetent man. He was a total disaster in my government.” More worrying, perhaps, was Mr Singh’s response to staying with the party; he said, “I can’t answer that right now.”

  7. The Amarinder Singh-Navjot Sidhu feud has festered for a long time now; it dates back to the 2017 Assembly election, when Mr Sidhu hoped to be made Deputy Chief Minister but was reportedly denied the post by Mr Singh. The former cricketer was instead made a minister but quit two years later after his ministry was downgraded. Since then the two have become implacable rivals.

  8. The flamboyant Mr Sidhu sulked for a while after he quit but, on his re-emergence, he began re-targeting Amarinder Singh and became a hard-to-ignore problem in the run-up to next year’s election.

  9. The rift between the two escalated sharply in recent weeks, threatening to blow the Congress’ re-election bid out of the water and forcing the high command to mediate. As part of a compromise formula, in July (despite Amarinder Singh’s strong resistance) the party appointed Navjot Sidhu its Punjab chief, but the acrimony between the two simmered below the surface.

  10. The truce started unravelling with a row over advisers appointed by Mr Sidhu and their controversial statements, which Mr Singh publicly condemned. 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.

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