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India


Changing equations of Congress in Punjab forces Amarinder to resign

Changing equations of Congress in Punjab forces Amarinder to resign

By Anjali Ojha
Chandigarh/New Delhi, Sep 18 (UNI) As Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister of poll-bound Punjab on Saturday after months of power struggle with state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, party sources said the decision was taken after a majority of party MLAs and workers opposed him.
Sources in the party said Singh, an old guard of the party and a personal and close friend of former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi, also could not adjust to the generational shift in the party, and was unhappy with Rahul Gandhi calling shots.
A party leader from Punjab told UNI that an internal survey conducted by the party found that over 80 percent of the MLAs wanted the chief minister to be changed. Feedback from the party workers meanwhile showed the majority felt they would lose the next elections if Singh remained at helm.
Among the major failures is the state government's inability to control the drug menace, one of the key promises of the party during the 2017 polls.
Singh however claimed after his resignation that his party has fulfilled "92 per cent" of the promises made in their manifesto, and dismissed the charges of poor governance.
The Congress as well, in its meeting of the legislature party, passed a resolution thanking Singh for his work as the chief minister.
However, party sources said the move was made not just because of the tussle between Singh and Sidhu, but because of extensive feedback of mismanagement.
Several MLAs also felt he was inaccessible as a chief minister, and his son Raninder Singh was calling shots. MLAs also felt the chief minister did not meet people, and had lost popularity on ground. The work being handled by the bureaucracy in the state was another issue that MLAs complained against.
On Saturday, as the AICC called a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, an upset Singh called a meeting of his supporters. Around two dozen MLAs also met the chief minister at his residence. However, later in the evening, 78 out of Congress' 80 MLAs were present in the meeting, showing the waning popularity of the leader.
Singh had given a crushing defeat to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley in Amritsar in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and led the Congress to a victory in the state in 2017, both major morale boosters for Congress.
However, amid farmers protests, and building anti-incumbency, the Congress leaders in the state felt his exit was necessary.
In what indicated his unpopularity, Punjab Congress leader Sunil Jakhar congratulated the party leadership for the decision.
"Kudos for adopting the Alexandrian solution to this Punjabi version of Gordian knot," Jakhar said.
The elevation of Sidhu as Punjab Congress chief also did not go well with Singh, as the party went ahead with the decision despite his vocal opposition. On Saturday as well, Singh slammed Sidhu as being a "friend of Pakistan".
Sources say, the resignation today, also shows the rising power of Rahul Gandhi in the party. The Gandhi scion has been leading the charge against BJP at the national level, even as he has kept away from the post of party president.
"While Sonia Gandhi still remains at the top post in the party, this shows that Rahul Gandhi has taken the charge in a major way," a party leader said on the condition of anonymity.
With the movements in Punjab, all eyes are now set on Rajasthan, where a power tussle has been going on between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and party leader Sachin Pilot.
A cabinet reshuffle and several appointments remain pending in the state as Gehlot is unwell and unable to travel to Delhi, the party has said.
UNI AO SHK2208

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