Punjab crisis: Amarinder-Shah meet fuels speculation

Punjab political crisis: Amarinder Singh meets Union Home Minister Amit Shah

Singh arrived in the national capital on Tuesday, days after he quit as the chief minister of Punjab

Home Minister Amit Shah meets with Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, in New Delhi. Credit: PTI Photo

Former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday met Home Minister Amit Shah 11 days after he resigned as CM saying he was “humiliated” and later snubbed Gandhi siblings as “inexperienced”.

After having an hour-long meeting with the Home Minister, Singh drove to an undisclosed location in a different car from the one in which he had come to Shah’s residence.

“Met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. Discussed the prolonged farmers’ agitation against farms laws and urged him to resolve the crisis urgently with repeal of the laws & guarantee MSP, besides supporting Punjab in crop diversification,” the former CM’s media advisor tweeted quoting Singh along with pictures of his meeting with Shah.

Read | A ‘high command’ laid low by a maverick

Singh is also likely to meet some of the senior leaders from the G-23 from Congress in the national capital. Former Union Minister and a prominent leader of the group Kapil Sibal on Wednesday stressed that the Congress should have a full fledged president and expressed anguish that the current developments in Punjab could be advantageous to ISI and Pakistan.

Singh’s media advisor tweeted the video clip of Sibal’s press conference saying “that’s exactly the point Captain Amarinder has been making".

Singh had come to Delhi on Tuesday, a day which saw the dramatic resignation of Punjab Congress Navjot Sidhu, prompting the former CM to needle the party leadership saying he had already said that Sidhu was “not stable, not fit” for Congress”.

Singh, who earlier used to say that he will abide by all the decisions of Sonia Gandhi, did not meet any of the Gandhis in the last two days.

The former Chief Minister’s meeting with Shah happened on Wednesday after speculations emerged that Sidhu’s resignation row could be heading for a resolution with the Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi reaching out to him while Sidhu does not have many options after having quit the BJP in the past, slamming the Akalis till now and AAP having launched an attack on him.

The former CM had on Tuesday alleged that Sidhu’s resignation as Punjab Congress chief within two months of appointment suggests he is preparing ground to leave Congress and join another party ahead of Punjab Assembly polls

Adding fire to the fuel, On Wednesday morning, Amarinder's advisor had tweeted a news headline - “Punjab: Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns and Congress finds itself in a royal mess.”

Read | Congress hits out at Home Minister Amit Shah after his meeting with Amarinder Singh

On Tuesday, Singh’s media advisor had also said that too much was being read into Captain’s visit to Delhi and that he was on a personal visit, during which he would meet some friends and also vacate Kapurthala house for the new CM. Amarinder, himself had said that he had to go for some work and that the media was unnecessarily indulging in speculation.

However, the very nature of the meeting after speculations about Amarinder cosying up to BJP leaves enough room for future alignments even as this cannot be ruled out completely that Captain is leveraging this meeting to send a message to the Congress leadership.

This was Captain’s first visit to the national capital after his resignation on September 18.

Singh on the day of putting down his papers asserted that “politics is not a static game but a moving game” and that "there are options in. When the options come, I will see. One task has been completed. There could be other tasks. In politics options are never closed. I am 80-year-old and can work for 10 more years. I am not the one to leave this way.”

Days later, he made his first direct attack on Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi saying, “Fact is the Gandhi siblings are inexperienced and their advisors are clearly misguiding them. I was prepared to leave politics after victory but never after a loss.”

Making it clear that he is not ready to hang his boots yet and still sees an active political role for him, Singh had dismissed the age-theory saying “you can be old at 40 and young at 80.”

The option being speculated is Captain forming his own party that could work out its role after elections depending upon its performance, rather than straightway joining the BJP and giving it a face. BJP is not a strong force in Punjab and is limited to a few seats and hence, finds itself hunting for candidates in large number of seats where its erstwhile decades-long ally Akali fought from. Akali Dal walked out from NDA last year opposing the three contentious farm laws and had later announced an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP this year.

Farmer protest is also an issue on which the former Punjab Chief Minister and the BJP are on different pages. It remains to be seen if Captain chooses to hitch his wagon to the BJP and what formulae the central government works out.

Meanwhile, former Union Minister Manish Tewari, who is close to Captain, said that there must be a “very valid and cogent” reason if the former chief minister is meeting the Home Minister and highlighted the security challenges in a border state like Punjab.

Without taking any names, he, however, said the Punjab issue was “completely mishandled” and cited how there was no such problem related to Punjab affairs when party leader Asha Kumari was the AICC in-charge for the state. This was an indirect attack on the incumbent AICC-in-charge for Punjab Harish Rawat.

Former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, who was sacked last year, tweeted, “A short story on Punjab: Congress under Captain Amarinder Singh looks solid, in pole position. Sidhu revolts. Delhi encourages him. Sidhu becomes State chief. Delhi humiliates Captain. Captain resigns. Channi becomes CM. Sidhu resigns. Someone in Delhi needs to be sacked.”

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