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A sudden meeting of Punjab MLAs announced by the Congress late Friday night, with big hints that a majority of them had asked for change, drove a crisis of months to breaking point. Congress's Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat tweeted about the meeting and Amarinder Singh's rival Navjot Singh Sidhu shared the post.
Stung by the move, Amarinder Singh, 79, told reporters he had decided to resign in the morning. He said he had spoken with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and had told her he had put up with enough humiliation.
"I was humiliated three times by the Congress leadership in the past two months...they called the MLAs to Delhi twice and now convened CLP (MLAs' meeting) today (Saturday). Apparently they (Congress leadership) do not have confidence in me and did not think I could handle my job. But I felt humiliated at the manner in which they handled the whole affair... It's now up to them to appoint anyone they trust," Mr Singh said, flashing resentment that threatens to blow up for the Congress in the coming months.
Asked whether he would stay in the Congress or form a new outfit before the election, Mr Singh said: "There is always an option, and I will use that option when the time comes... at the moment I am still in Congress." He added that he would "speak to my people who have supported me for the past 52 years". Mr Singh had earlier called MLAs to his house to rally his loyalists. Fifteen of the Congress's 80 MLAs, including four ministers, attended the meeting.
Amarinder Singh's son Raninder Singh talked about "new beginnings" in his tweet. "...must go now as I am proud to accompany my father to Raj Bhawan when he submits his resignation as CM of Punjab and leads us as head of our family into a new beginning et all," he wrote.
Mr Singh unsurprisingly skipped the MLAs' meet. Sources say over 50 MLAs had written to Sonia Gandhi demanding that the "Captain" be replaced as Chief Minister. Mr Singh had fought the party's order to resign, which raises the possibility of a split in the Congress and turmoil over who will be Chief Minister and lead the party in the Punjab election.
The names of three leaders are in circulation to replace Mr Singh - former Punjab Congress chiefs Sunil Jakhar and Pratap Singh Bajwa, and Beant Singh's grandson Ravneet Singh Bittu.
Hours earlier, Sunil Jakhar had all but announced that Mr Singh was on his way out. "Kudos to 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," Mr Jakhar tweeted.
The Punjab crisis has escalated dramatically over the Chief Minister's festering feud with Navjot Sidhu. In July, despite the Chief Minister's fierce resistance, the party appointed Navjot Sidhu its Punjab chief, but the acrimony stayed barely below the surface.
The truce started unravelling with a row over advisers appointed by Mr Sidhu and their controversial statements, which Mr Singh publicly condemned. Last month, four ministers and around two dozen party legislators raised fresh complaints against Amarinder Singh, telling the leadership that they had no faith in his ability to honour poll promises.
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