Amarinder Singh and Partap Singh Bajwa.
A day after former Punjab PCC president Partap Singh Bajwa called for a “Captain-mukt Congress”, referring to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, state ministers on Tuesday called for the party leadership to take disciplinary action against him.
Bajwa, a Rajya Sabha MP, had made his comments against the CM during an interview with a TV channel on Monday. He had earlier said he would not support Singh’s leadership for a second term unless action is taken on the desecration of religious texts.
An informal discussion between ministers before a state Cabinet meeting on Tuesday saw a demand for disciplinary action against Bajwa by the Congress leadership.
Sources said the issue was broached before the formal start of the meeting by Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, an aide of the Chief Minister. He is learnt to have stated that Bajwa’s rebellion will weaken the party.
A statement by the Chief Minister’s Office said, “Punjab Ministers on Tuesday demanded, in one voice, disciplinary action by the Congress leadership a against Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa for raising a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on public platforms.
They pointed out that despite repeated pleas asking him to express his opinions within the party forum, Bajwa continued to criticise Captain Amarinder Singh and his government in media and other places. The MP had gone so far as to seek a change at the helm of the government, they noted with consternation, terming it an act of sheer indiscipline and urging the party leadership to take immediate action against the former Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief,” the statement added.
According to the CMO statement, the ministers accused Bajwa of “playing into the hands” of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by pitching himself against his own party leadership.
The statement said that other members of the Council of Ministers — Aruna Chaudhary, Razia Sultana, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukhjinder Singh Sarkaria, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Vijay Inder Singla, Sunder Sham Arora and Bharat Bhushan Ashu — were in total agreement with their colleagues in seeking urgent intervention by the party high command in the matter.
“Such rebellion, if not nipped in the bud, could send the wrong message down the rank and file of the Punjab Congress, which had been on a high since taking over the state’s reins around three years,” the statement quoted the ministers as saying.
Reacting to the statement by the state Cabinet ministers, Bajwa said, “My accountability is to the people of Punjab and I will not be browbeaten by these tactics of Captain Amarinder Singh, who could not muster enough courage to rebut my allegations but needed the shelter of his reluctant Cabinet colleagues to do the same.”
Bajwa and Singh’s enmity dates back to many years. Once friends, the two turned foes and Bajwa had challenged Singh after the Congress lost 2012 Assembly elections. In 2013, Bajwa was appointed PCC chief by the party high command, and it took Singh a long battle to have him removed from the post in December 2015.