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Amarinder meets Amit Shah, asks to ‘repeal farm laws’ as speculation about joining BJP grows

BJP leaders say ‘all patriots are welcome’ in their party. But given Amarinder’s support of farmers’ agitation against Modi govt’s farm laws, a face-saver might be needed.

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New Delhi: Former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah Wednesday evening, days after the Congress high command forced him to quit his post. The meeting took place amid speculation about Amarinder’s next political move ahead of the Punjab assembly elections in 2022.

“Met Union Home Minister @AmitShah in Delhi. Discussed the prolonged farmers’ agitation against #FarmLaws & urged him to resolve the crisis urgently with repeal of the laws & guarantee MSP, besides supporting Punjab in crop diversification’: @capt_amarinder,” tweeted Raveen Thukral, Amarinder’s media adviser.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which does not have much at stake in Punjab following its split with long-term ally Shiromani Akali Dal, may come alive if Amarinder joins the party or allies with it.

Congress sources close to the former CM said given his consistent support for the farmers’ agitation against the Narendra Modi government’s three contentious farm laws, the BJP would have to offer him a face-saver either by annulling the laws or diluting them. This would enable Amarinder to claim credit for facilitating a solution to the farmers’ stir, and would bolster his political standing.

“Captain has been in favour of the farmers’ agitation in the past, and if he is indeed making a demand for the repeal of the laws, it could act as a face-saver for him if he were to join the BJP. He could become the face of the negotiation and end the stalemate that has been going on for the last 10 months,” said a source.

A climb-down on the farm laws could also help the BJP politically, as the continuing agitation is threatening its poll prospects in Uttar Pradesh, and has also put the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana in a tight spot.

Dushyant Chautala, the Deputy CM of Haryana and head of the BJP’s ally Jannayak Janata Party, whose support is crucial to the Khattar government, has been under tremendous pressure as his support base among the Jat community is turning against him for backing a party that brought in the farm laws.

But the Modi government hasn’t given any indications of a change in stance, let alone if the farm laws will be repealed. The BJP, too, has officially not said anything about Amarinder joining the party.

“All his options are open, whether it is about joining a party or being involved in some way or the other politically,” the source quoted above said.

“It is still not clear how this will pan out, but the fact that Captain discussed farmers’ issues is definitely significant,” added the source.

Also read: 5 reasons why Navjot Sidhu has resigned, pushing Punjab Congress into deeper crisis

‘One nationalist leader met another’

Soon after Amarinder left for Delhi Tuesday afternoon, speculation was rife about his next political move. After resigning as CM on 18 September, he had said he had felt humiliated at the hands of the Congress high command, and had also said his options were open.

Amarinder was at loggerheads with the state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, and tendered his resignation after feeling “humiliated”. But Sidhu too resigned from his post Tuesday, unhappy with the distribution of the portfolios in new CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s ministry, leaving the Congress in a state of disarray.

Asked to comment on whether Amarinder will join the BJP, the party’s national general secretary and Punjab in-charge Dushyant Gautam said: “All those who are patriots and talk in the interest of the country are welcome to join the BJP.”

The party’s national spokesperson R.P. Singh added: “One nationalist leader met another. Nationalist leaders can meet whenever they want and talk about Mother India, issues related to border security and national security.”

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal Wednesday also called for a meeting of the party’s working committee, on behalf of the ‘G23’ leaders who have been demanding changes in its structure and leadership, seemingly echoing Amarinder’s sentiments when he said the volatile situation of the party in Punjab will be an “advantage to Pakistan and ISI” given the state’s history.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

(This report has been updated to correct a quote, to reflect Captain Amarinder Singh’s support to the farmers’ agitation, not the farm laws, in the past.)

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


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