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Amarinder leaving Congress but not joining BJP, blames ‘unstable’ Sidhu for damaging party

Former CM Captain Amarinder Singh tells NDTV that ‘another political force’ is coming up in Punjab, but doesn’t elaborate. Adds he’s thinking before making his next move.

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Chandigarh: Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has put to rest speculation that he’ll join the BJP, but has also stated clearly that he is leaving the Congress party.

In an interview to NDTV Thursday afternoon, on the day he met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and a day after he had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Amarinder said his next move will be in favour of the future of Punjab.

Although he spoke about “another” political force coming up in Punjab, he didn’t elaborate on it.

Asked who will have the last laugh in Punjab, Amarinder said this time, the elections will be different. “There are many parties like the AAP, the Akalis and the Congress. Then another force is coming up. There are some other Akali Dals as well. But no matter how many parties, Punjab makes up its mind and votes for one. And I hope this time too they vote for the future of Punjab,” the 79-year-old leader said.

“I have nothing to gain from it. I want my state to be secure and don’t want Pakistan to interfere in my state,” he stated.

However, Amarinder kept his cards close to his chest on what he intends to do next. “Whatever I do will be known in time. I don’t take decisions in split-seconds; I think of pros and cons,” he said.

Also read: Sonia Gandhi’s rule for CMs is perform or perish. Amarinder Singh is not ready for sunset

On meeting Amit Shah and Ajit Doval

Asked about his Thursday meeting with NSA Doval, Amarinder said he meets him “normally” over issues of national security.

“Even if I am not the chief minister, Punjab is still ours. We are concerned with so many drones landing in Punjab with weapons, and now RDX is found in children’s tiffin boxes. I have been following it up for four-and-a-half years, and it is a matter of concern for me. I have seen the worst days of Punjab before and after Operation Blue Star. I don’t want that to be repeated and that was my purpose of meeting (Doval),” he said.

The previous day, following his meeting with Shah, Amarinder’s media adviser had tweeted that the leaders had discussed the three contentious farm laws, with the former CM asking for them to be repealed and for farmers to be guaranteed MSP for their crops. This gave rise to widespread speculation that Amarinder would be utilised by the BJP to help resolve the farmers’ agitation ahead of the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh elections next year.

Amarinder also said his meeting with Shah was about the farmers’ agitation and the laws. “It has been eight-nine months and it cannot continue endlessly. A solution needs to be found. Also, I fear that the agitation can lead to disturbances in Punjab. So many Punjabis farmers have died during the agitation,” he said.

Attack on Sidhu

Amarinder also made it clear that he will be leaving the Congress, a decision that comes less than 10 days after he was forced to resign as chief minister of Punjab under pressure from the party high command.

“I want to make my position very clear. I will not be treated in this manner. I have my own beliefs and principles. But if my credibility is at stake after all these years (of being in the Congress and politics) and there is no trust left, there is no point in my remaining in the Congress,” he said.

Later in the day, he also removed the Congress party’s symbol from his Twitter bio.

The former CM also lambasted his bete noire Navjot Singh Sidhu, saying his appointment as state Congress president had damaged the party.

“In the last survey we got done, the AAP was going up and the Congress was going down. We had two surveys — one on 31 May and another on 31 July. In the meantime, in June, Sidhu was made the president, and there was a 20 per cent drop in Congress’ popularity. People don’t have faith in Sidhu,” the former Army officer claimed.

“He is like other actors who come in rallies — a crowd puller. He is a childish man, not a serious politician,” said Amarinder, adding that Sidhu was too non-serious to head a party in a state.

“As of today, the Congress is going downhill; not because I am leaving, you can ask any Congressman. Where it will stop I cannot say,” he said.

Amarinder said he had always held that Sidhu was unstable. “I have seen him since he was a little child. He is a loner, not a team player, and if you want to have a PCC president, you will need a team player,” he said, adding that even if the current crisis (post Sidhu’s resignation) gets resolved, it will not be for too long.

“Sidhu has been dominating the new CM and demanding who should be posted where and who should be taken in. When I was the CM, there was no such interference,” he added.

Future of the Congress

Asked about Rahul Gandhi bringing young CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar into the party, Amarinder said “maybe Mr Gandhi wants people of younger profile”.

“Historically in Punjab, we had a budha dal and the taruna dal. The budha dal consisted of old wise men, the thinkers, and the taruna dal was the group of (young) implementers. Now there is only taruna dal without having a thought process (to guide them). The G-23 is the group of thinkers whom you (Rahul Gandhi) don’t want to listen to,” said Amarinder.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Spotlight’s on new Punjab ministers to resolve issues they raised when Amarinder was CM


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