Amarinder Singh To Form New Party, Navjot Sidhu's Prompt "BJP Loyal" Jibe

On an alliance with the BJP, Amarinder Singh said that his party will look for a seat-sharing arrangement.

Amarinder Singh said he will form a new party ahead of Punjab polls.

Highlights

  • "I will form political party in Punjab," Amarinder Singh said
  • He said that his party will look for a seat-sharing arrangement with BJP
  • He supported Centre's move to expand jurisdiction of BSF in Punjab
Chandigarh/New Delhi:

Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced that he will form a new political party in Punjab ahead of the elections in the state next year. "We have many many leaders with us, it'll be revealed who is with us once the party is announced," he said on Wednesday in a press conference. He said that the new party will contest on all 117 assembly seats in Punjab and that he has applied for a party name and a symbol, and an announcement will be made after the Election Commission's approval.

“We are waiting for the opportune moment, I will not take their names. My supporters are already being harassed,” said Captain Amarinder, addressing his first press conference after stepping down as Chief Minister. Asked how many MLAs were in touch with him, he quipped, “If Rahul Gandhi needs to have back-to-back meetings with Punjab Congress MLAs, what does it mean?”.

On an alliance with the BJP, Mr Singh said that his party will provide "issue-based" support and look for a seat-sharing arrangement if the ongoing farmers' protest against the three new farm laws was resolved in their interest. "I never said that I will align with the BJP. All I said was that I, my party, will look for a seat-sharing agreement," he said.  "In military parlance, it's called concentration of forces," he remarked, adding that he had, however, not yet talked to the BJP on this. 

Reiterating his statement from last month on aligning with like-minded parties, he added that he would try to put together a "united front" to defeat "Akalis, Aam Aadmi Party, and Congress". He further made it clear that he had no intention of aligning with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) but only with breakaway Akali groups. On the reported refusal of Dhindsa to align with him, Mr Singh said, "If Dhindsa has to put up a real fight, he will have to concentrate his forces too." 

Mr Singh presented a manifesto listing his achievements as the chief minister of Punjab for the last 4.5 years. He claimed that he has finished 92 percent of what he had promised while campaigning during the 2017 assembly elections. He said that the Charanjit Channi government was merely implementing what he had decided to do. "All the work we started is simply being carried forward. The issue of land ownership of Lal Doras and slums was started by me, it was a decision of my cabinet," he pointed out.

Listing some of his government's achievements, he claimed that of the targeted Rs 1 lakh crore industrial investment, Rs 96,000 crore had already come by the time he stepped down as Chief Minister. Leading corporate houses had invested in Punjab, he said, adding that "fortunately, the farmers' agitation had not impacted investments in the state". He also shared with the media a booklet titled 'Facts v/s Disinformation', detailing achievements of his government from March 2017 till September 18, 2021.

Mr Singh had to resign as the Chief Minister after a dramatic rebellion by Congress leaders in the state who had been critical of him for allegedly not acting on pre-poll promises that propelled the part's victory in the state. He was replaced by Charanjit Singh Channi. "I do not want to name any minister, but what are they talking about? We have completed the 18-point agenda that we set out for," he said.

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has constantly been at loggerheads with Mr Singh, attacked him immediately after the announcement in a strongly worded tweet. "We the 78 MLAs of Congress, could never imagine, what we received an arm-twisted, ED controlled BJP loyal Chief Minister of Punjab  @capt_amarinder... who sold the interests of Punjab to save his skin. You were the negative force stalling Justice & development of Punjab," he said. 

Mr Sidhu also accused Mr Singh of trying to edge him out of the party as he was "raising the voice of the people" and speaking "truth to power". He said that the former Chief Minister "compromised on the interests of Punjab" and that the people of the state would "punish him" for it.

Reacting to Mr Sidhu's critical tweets, Mr Singh said that the state Congress chief "knew nothing" and "just talks on tweets". 

The former Chief Minister had supported the Centre's move to expand the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces (BSF) in Punjab, which triggered a debate on federalism and state autonomy. He said that his "basic training" is that of a soldier and that he has been actively involved in "safety and intelligence issues" in the state as Chief Minister for 9.5 years.

He dismissed speculations that the BSF would take over the state's administration or will be deployed in the Golden Temple and said such misconceptions were "being spread by certain people" to score brownie points in the run-up to the assembly elections.

"The security forces are professional and are there for our security. They are in no way a threat to the government, nor are they taking over the government in Punjab, so let them do their duty and protect the state and the citizens of India," he said.

On the contentious farm laws, he said that he was discussing the issue with the Union Home Minister and when a solution comes up, "it will be revealed". He also said that the issue was between the farmers and the government. In response to allegations of him not acting strongly in the Bargari and other sacrilege cases, he said that the issue was in the court and he "can't dictate who is guilty, who is not". He rubbished the claims that there was no action in the case. "As many as 19 police officers and 21 civilians were booked...these processes take time," he said.

Mr Singh said he was not an alarmist but his 10 years of experience in the Army and 9.5 years as Home Minister of the state made him believe that "something is going to happen."

"Yet, a Home Minister who has been in his chair for one month claims to know more than me," he quipped, taking a dig at Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

Mr Singh said he didn't want the state to go through a "turbulent time" as it has in the past. On border security, he warned of drones "dropping weapons, ammunition, and narcotics". He claimed that underground tunnels have also been found in Punjab. "These drones are Chinese drones - their range and payload capacity is increasing by the day. That day may not be far when these drones can reach and drop the payload as far as Chandigarh. One can never take a risk," he added. Attacking Congress leaders on the issue, he said that it was "irresponsible" of them to say that "everything is okay" when there are "ISI sleeper cells and Khalistanis" involved in drone droppings. 

The former Chief Minister said that while the Punjab Police was a "first-class and well-trained force", they were, however, not trained to combat such threats. He pointed out that even in the years when Punjab battled terrorism, the Army was helping out and nobody took over the state government's job.

The former Chief Minister has left directly for Delhi after the press conference where he is scheduled to meet Home Minister Amit Shah tomorrow.