NEW DELHI — Last evening, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh received a message from the High Command: call a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party today and listen to the views of the ministers and MLAs who were opposed to his style of functioning.
The Captain’s response, sources said, was to drag his feet, trying to buy time by suggesting that calling a meeting of the CLP at such short notice would not be feasible.
Within hours, Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat took to Twitter to announce that since the high command had received “a representation from a large number of MLAs from the Congress party, requesting to immediately convene a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party of Punjab” a meeting of the CLP would be held today at 5 pm.
Within minutes, Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu also tweeted that as per the AICC directive, the Congress Legislative Party meeting would be convened at Chandigarh today.
Since early morning today, supporters of both Captain Amarinder and the three dissident ministers – Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Technical Education Minister Charanjit Channi, and Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, as well as supporters of Sidhu, have been busy drumming up support.
Sources say that while the dissidents want Randhawa or Bajwa to be appointed the next Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder, resigned to the fact that even his die-hard supporters among MLAs had jumped ship, was backing former PCC chief Sunil Jakhar, a Hindu, for the post. Sources said that in case the leadership didn’t show a willingness to accept Jakhar in view of the fact that appointing a Hindu at this juncture could harm the party’s prospects with the Sikh voters, Captain could support Finance Minister Manpreet Badal or even his critic-turned-friend Pratap Singh Bajwa, a Rajya Sabha MP, for the post.
Jakhar’s enigmatic tweet hailing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for “adopting Alexandrian solution to this Punjabi version of Gordian knot” and the “bold leadership decision to resolve Punjab Congress imbroglio”, added to the confusion.
Sources told India Ahead that Amarinder’s supporters and advisers continue to make phone calls and reach out to the disgruntled MLAs, but without much success.
Amarinder’s close aides also let it slip that in case “Maharaja Sahib” was forced to quit as CM, he would walk out of the party.
Asked about the possibility of this happening, one key aide told India Ahead, “A lot of speculation and posturing is happening. Don’t accept everything you hear as the Gospel truth. Wait and see.”
The same aide, however, acknowledged that the Captain’s aloofness and tendency to rule through a close coterie had brought things to such a pass.
Meanwhile, sources also disclosed that the three Central observers – Rawat, Ajay Maken, and Harish Chaudhary – were also talking to senior state Congress leaders to assess the situation ahead of evening’s CLP meeting.