Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is facing a fresh bout of rebellion within his Congress party, with MLAs and now even cabinet colleagues openly voicing their disenchantment.
Less than a week after former India hockey captain and Congress MLA Pargat Singh’s letter criticising the CM’s governance became public, Amarinder’s cabinet colleagues Tuesday voiced their dissatisfaction over the working of his government’s functionaries.
This latest crisis within the ruling Congress comes on the eve of the eight-day budget session of the Punjab assembly that begins Thursday.
During the pre-budget session cabinet meeting Tuesday, some ministers objected to the working of Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and Advocate General Atul Nanda. Both officers were hand-picked by Amarinder when he took over as CM in early 2017.
Senior minister Sukhjinder Randhawa said civil servants “did not care” for elected legislators, and added that the AG’s office too had failed to defend the state government in prominent cases. Several cabinet ministers seconded Randhawa’s criticism of Nanda.
Apart from his cabinet colleagues, a section of party MLAs are also upset with Amarinder’s performance. Pargat Singh, who had defected from the Akali Dal and won the elections from Jalandhar, had shot off a scathing letter to the CM, listing his grievances with the government.
Pargat is considered a close friend of former cabinet minister and Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu. In his letter, Pargat has questioned the inability of the government to stem corruption, listing the various scams on which the CM had ordered probes, none of which came to their logical conclusion. He added that despite the fact that the Congress had come to power with a huge mandate, an impression was gaining ground that things had gone awry and people were getting disappointed with the government’s performance.
Though the letter was written last month, it hit the headlines on the eve of the crucial budget session, which will likely set the tone for the session, said a senior Congress leader on the condition of anonymity.
Sidhu, meanwhile, remains a constant irritant for Amarinder. Sidhu was extremely vocal against the government’s functioning while he was a minister, but has been lying low ever since his ignominious ouster from the cabinet in July last year.
Senior Congress leaders’ run-ins
Last month, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu had taken on Amarinder and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, asking them to start working towards fulfilling the party’s pre-poll promises. He challenged Badal to prove he is an effective minister, and that his parent party Akali Dal’s accusation that he is a “failed minister” is baseless.
Rajya Sabha MP and former state Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa also had an ugly spat with Amarinder last month, when he demanded Nanda’s removal as advocate general. When the CM told Bajwa to mind his own business, the latter called for a “Captain-mukt Congress”, and told a news channel that he would not support another term of Amarinder as CM.
In November last year, current state Congress president Sunil Jakhar was at pains to assuage four MLAs from Patiala, who had raised a banner of rebellion against the government. They too had complained against the bureaucracy being non-responsive.