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Amid turmoil in Punjab Cong, Amarinder to quit as CM ahead of crucial CLP meet

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has decided to quit ahead of the crucial Congress Legislature Party meeting slated on Saturday evening, sources close to the chief minister said.

Amid turmoil in Punjab Cong, Amarinder to quit as CM ahead of crucial CLP meet
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (File Photo)


The decision came after a meeting of legislators close to the chief minister at his official residence in Chandigarh. Earlier in the day, Amarinder Singh phoned Congress president Sonia Gandhi and expressed his anguish over the ''humiliation'' meted to him, the sources said. 

''Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will address a press conference at Punjab Raj Bhawan Gate at 4:30 pm,'' tweeted the chief minister's media adviser. 

He will meet Governor Banwarilal Purohit after that, the sources said as events in the state's dissension-riven ruling party appeared to race towards a denouement. Over 50 MLAs in the party have written to Gandhi seeking that Amarinder Singh be replaced as chief minister, a development that comes just about four months ahead of assembly elections in the state. 

The MLAs in their letter sought the convening of the CLP meeting, being held at 5 pm on Friday at the Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh. The high command has deputed senior party leaders Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary as central observers. 

AICC general secretary in-charge for Punjab affairs of the party Harish Rawat will also be present during the meeting. 

The unrest in the state unit does not bode well for the Congress in Punjab, where it is hoping to be elected back to power. The hope was that calm would return after Amarinder Singh's bete noire Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed PCC president. 

Sidhu, who is eyeing the chief minister's post, however, is unlikely to be a probable choice for the chief minister's replacement, the sources pointed out. 

They said the Congress is trying to balance equations in the state and is likely to appoint a Hindu face to the top post. The name of former PCC chief Sunil Jakhar is doing the rounds. Jakhar, who is not an MLA, is believed to be close to the top leadership. The sources termed the current crisis ''serious'' with so many MLAs seeking the chief minister's replacement so close to elections. In a cryptic tweet, Jakhar lauded Rahul Gandhi for the ''bold'' solution taken in Punjab to resolve the leadership crisis. 

''Kudos to Sh Rahul Gandhi for adopting Alexandrian solution to this punjabi version of Gordian knot. Surprisingly, this bold leadership decision to resolve Punjab Congress imbroglio has not only enthralled congress workers but has sent shudders down the spines of Akalis,'' he said. Trouble between the two factions has been brewing for long and Amarinder Singh was strongly opposed to Sidhu's appointment as PCC chief. 

Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh ever since he quit the Punjab cabinet as a minister in 2019. He had become more vocal in his views in the last some months. Sidhu's principal strategic adviser and former IPS officer Mohd Mustafa in a tweet said it is the time to have a ''Congress CM'' after a ''long agonising wait'' of four and a half years. ''Today is the time for course correction,'' Mustafa said, referring to the meeting. Mustafa's wife Razia Sultana is a cabinet minister in the Amarinder Singh-led government. Last month, four ministers and around two dozen party legislators had raised the banner of revolt against the Punjab chief minister and said they had no faith in Amarinder Singh's ability to honour unfulfilled promises. The announcement of the CLP meeting was made on Friday night by Rawat. Such meetings are usually called by the chief minister as he is the CLP leader in the state. 

Several MLAs and some ministers close to Sidhu have been seeking a meeting of the legislature party. 

Sidhu and some other party leaders were also present at the Chandigarh airport to receive Rawat and the two observers. Maken refused to make any comment on questions related to the meeting.

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