This is the general sentiment in the Punjab which voted the Congress, led by Amarinder, to a landslide victory in the 2017 legislative elections, giving the party 77 seats out of Vidhan Sabha’s 117 members. He went on to win three more seats in the indirect polls held in October 2019, bringing his strength to 80. Besides the ruling opposition to Shiromani Akali Dal, these are some of the key promises Amarinder made – punish the main culprits behind Incidents of sacrilege and police shooting to Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, ending the drug threat and rescinding flawed power purchase agreements (PPAs), among others, that helped the party achieve victory. However, ahead of the elections early next year, discontent was brewing over broken promises.
Balbir Singh, who retired from the state transportation department and now lives in Bathinda, said: “This (resignation) should have happened about a year ago. The captain did a good job during his previous tenure (2002-07), but he failed to deliver this time around. He couldn’t keep the big promises he made, making it difficult even for local congressional leaders to come out in public. Moreover, he remained inaccessible to his own ministers, and even less to meeting the public ”.
He said Congress will now have a valid excuse when it begins its campaign for the 2022 polls with a new CM face.
Okay Gora Singh Bhainibagha, senior vice president of Punjab Kisan Union. “They (Congress) made so many promises and couldn’t keep them. People had started to question them. The party took this step to slow down and stop the anti-nomination wave. They seem to have learned the lessons from the BJP, which has changed heads of government twice in Uttarakhand and recently in Gujarat. From now on, a new face will not be so much questioned by the public when Congress returns to the masses on the pretext that they have withdrawn the CM, ”said Gora Singh, a resident of Bhainibagha village in Mansa.
Sarwan Singh Pandher, a Gurdaspur-based farmer and general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash committee, also said Amarinder’s resignation came as Congress broke its promises and stared at the ruling opposition. “This last-minute action can be beneficial for Congress. The promises he made in 2017 were too big to keep. Congress found itself faceless to return to the public. In addition, Amarinder often spoke the language that (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak. He even agreed to submit the farmers’ land records before the paddy supply season. He agreed on a lot of things the Center wanted but was against the farming community, ”Pandher said.
“Initially, when the agitation against the three central agricultural laws started, Amarinder, as Punjab CM, had obtained several FIRs against the farmers. Later, when the movement gained momentum, it retreated. This is (his resignation) a step planned before the 2022 polls, ”he added.
A progressive farmer from Lakhowal village in Ludhiana and who is also the chairman of the PAU Kisan Club, Amarinder Singh, said the resignation should have happened a year ago. “It was delayed most likely due to the continued agitation from the farmers. It is one of the first steps taken by Congress to revive its fortunes. They copied the BJP’s playbook to fight against the exercise of power. This action could help the party gain the sympathy of voters, ”he said.
“This is the result of an internal congressional feud and the struggle for the presidency and supremacy. We voters have been used as puppets. The leaders of Congress had been fighting for a long time, so something like this was expected. A new CM won’t be able to do much, ”said Jeetendra Garg, an Arhtiya based in Mansa.
The mood in Amarinder’s hometown of Mehraj, meanwhile, was bleak, with few people keen to talk about the great development of Punjab politics. A large village of Bathinda, Mehraj has now become a panchayat nagar. Seera Singh, a farmer from Saul Patti de Mehraj, believes that Amarinder has been designated as a scapegoat by Congress amid the internal feud and that the party will face the consequences. However, he added that during his previous term, “Amarinder changed the skyline of this village”, in his second term “he did not come to the village after winning the elections in 2017”.
“His ancestors took up residence in the village after their arrival from Rajasthan. We will always have a sweet corner for him. Anyone from Mehraj to his office was always amused, ”added Seera Singh.
Dr Sumit Gupta, a psychiatrist based in Jalandhar and Bobby Jindal, secretary general of the Punjab Dyers Association, said Congress erred in removing Amarinder.
“It’s a blunder. We only trusted Congress because of Capt Amarinder Singh. In 2017, they won thanks to him and have now forced him to resign. Before the polls, this step will not work at all, ”Gupta said.
Jindal added, “This will hurt Congress. The factions within Congress will continue to remain at loggerheads ”.
Dr Ravindra Vatsyayan, a renowned Ayurvedacharya based in Ludhiana, also had a similar opinion. “This is betrayal of the worst kind. The man who single-handedly led Congress to power in the Punjab has been summarily fired. Nothing more humiliating. Vinash-kaale viprit buddhi ”.