Amarinder Singh submits resignation letter to Punjab Governor (Image: Twitter/@RaninderSingh)
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder on September 18 submitted his resignation to Governor Banwarilal Purohit. His exit comes months before the assembly elections in the state, with a majority of MLAs within the ruling Congress reportedly seeking his ouster.
"CM Captain Amarinder Singh has met Punjab Governor and submitted his and his council of ministers’ resignation," Raveen Thukral, media advisor to the Punjab CM, tweeted.
Singh, while addressing the press following his resignation, said he has felt "humiliated" in the manner in which the party has handled the political situation in Punjab, adding that he has decided to step down as "doubts were being raised on his leadership".
"I have been humiliated for the third time in the past few months," he said, referring to the two summons issued to him by the party high command in Delhi, and the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting called today without consulting him.
On being asked about his future political plans, Singh said, "I will exercise my option when the time comes."
"I am in the Congress party, will consult with my supporters and decide the future course of action," he said, while also noting that he is not involved in the appointment of the next chief minister. "Whoever they (party high command) have faith in, can make them (Punjab CM)," Singh added.
In Punjab, where the intra-Congress crisis has been brewing over the past few months, things took an explosive turn after it was reported, citing sources, that the party leadership had asked Singh to resign and pave way for the appointment of a new chief minister.
Sources claimed that the Congress high command in Delhi decided a change of guard considering Singh’s diminishing popularity. Singh’s age, 79, was not on his side as well.
Congress' interim president Sonia Gandhi reportedly spoke with the chief minister and asked him to resign gracefully hours before the CLP meeting scheduled in the evening on September 18.
Singh, according to reports, called a meeting of MLAs earlier in the day, and is learnt to have received the support of only 15 of the party's 80 MLAs in the state.
Former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, who was once considered a close confidante of Amarinder Singh, is among the names being considered for the top post, according to the sources. Senior Congress leader Ambika Soni is also doing rounds as Singh’s replacement.
The CLP meeting, which was seen as yet another attempt to put pressure on the party leadership to change the chief minister ahead of the assembly elections, also comes days after about 40 party MLAs wrote to the central leadership, complaining about Amarinder Singh.
The MLAs alleged that the chief minister had done nothing to fulfil the 18-point programme issued by the party high command.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been the most vocal critic of the chief minister, was named the state party chief in July but he continues to queer the pitch, fancying his chances to emerge as the CM candidate.
The exit of Amarinder Singh comes four years after he secured the Congress a resounding victory in the last assembly polls in Punjab. The party currently has 80 MLAs in the 117-member House.
A legislator from Patiala, Singh had also served as chief minister of Punjab previously 2002 to 2007. He has also been the president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee on multiple occasions.
At 79, Singh was the oldest chief minister before his resignation today. His electoral career dates back to 1980, when he won a seat in the Lok Sabha for the first time, from his family bastion of Patiala.