Captain Amarinder Singh Will Not Let It Go

Why does a man of Mr Singh’s stature look so desperate to survive in politics? Can he not just let it go? Has he not achieved enough in his life?

Former Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh has been in the news for the past few months. Since he was asked to step down as the chief minister of the border state of Punjab last month, and was replaced with a fairly young and Dalit leader Charanjit Singh Channi, Captain Singh has been attacking the grand old party and its leadership frequently for “insulting” him.

After stepping down as the CM and openly criticising the Congress for dumping him, Amarinder Singh then went on to meet union home minister Amit Shah in national capital Delhi. His meeting with Mr Shah sparked speculations that the former royalty could join the saffron party and contest the upcoming assembly elections. Mr Singh had brushed off the possibility of joining forces with the BJP after his meeting with Mr Shah, saying they had just discussed the farmers’ protest.


Home Minister Amit Shah meets with Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, in New Delhi. (PTI)


However, on Tuesday, Amarinder Singh declared that he will form a new political party and provided the farmers’ protest gets resolved, will consider a “seat arrangement” with the BJP and breakaway Akali groups ahead of next year’s assembly elections in the state.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, the former Chief Minister’s media advisor Raveen Thukral quoted him as saying, “Will soon announce the launch of my own political party to serve the interests of Punjab & its people, including our farmers who’ve been fighting for their survival for over a year”.

In this article, let us discuss the political journey of the “people’s Maharaja” and what impact he could have on the Punjab assembly elections by floating a new party.

Maharaja of Patiala

On 11 March 1942, Amarinder Singh was born in Royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Patiala. His father, Sir Yadavindra Singh, was the last Maharaja of the princely state as India gained independence in 1947, and all princely states were inducted into the union of India.

Mr Singh attended the Loreto Convent, Tara Hall, Shimla and Lawrence School, Sanawar before going to The Doon School, Dehradun.

Later, Mr Singh served in the Indian Army from June 1963 to December 1966 after graduating from the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy.

He was commissioned into the Sikh Regiment. He served as the aide-de-camp to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command, Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh, from December 1964. He left the army in early 1965 to look after his family but came back when indo-pak war broke out & participated in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.


Captain Amarinder Singh (right) served in the 2nd battalion of the Sikh Regiment from 1963 to 1969.

Entry in politics

Rajiv Gandhi, the Gandhi-Nehru family scion who would later go on to become the PM of the country, was a friend of Mr Singh since their school days in Dehradun. Rajiv Gandhi inducted Amarinder Singh into the Congress party and he was made to contest the 1980 Lok Sabha Election, which he won.

However, after the Army action during Operation Blue Star, Mr Singh resigned from Parliament and from Congress as a protest. Subsequently, he joined the Shiromani Akali Dal and was elected to the state legislature from Talwandi Sabo and became a minister in the state government for Agriculture, Forest, Development and Panchayats.

Amarinder Singh, in 1992, broke away from the Akali Dal and formed a splinter group named Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic). His party faced a crushing defeat in 1997 assembly elections and even Mr Singh himself was defeated from his own constituency where he got only 856 votes.

After Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of Congress in 1998, Mr Singh merged his party with the grand old party. Since then, Mr Singh has served as the President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee on three occasions from 1999 to 2002, 2010 to 2013 and 2015 to 2017.


Sonia Gandhi with Captain Amarinder Singh (left) at a rally held in Samara in Punjab in 2012. (Indian Express)


Chief Minister

Mr Singh first became the Chief Minister of Punjab in 2002 and completed his term till 2007. However, Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP alliance won the 2007 assembly elections and Mr Singh had to step out of the top office.

In 2014 general elections, swept by the massive Modi wave, Mr Singh contested against senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and defeated him by 102,000 votes.

In 2015, Amarinder Singh was appointed President of Punjab Congress in the run up to Punjab elections slated for 2017. The Congress party won the State Assembly Elections in 2017 under his leadership.


Supporters greet Amarinder Singh in Punjab after Congress won Punjab assembly polls in 2017. (India Today)


Rivalry with Sidhu

Since June 2019, Navjot Singh Sidhu was sulking after being stripped off key portfolios in the Punjab cabinet reshuffle. In July 2019, Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned from the Amarinder Singh cabinet. Thereafter, the party high command was trying to work out a rapprochement between Sidhu and Singh.

In 2021, Both Singh and Sidhu met on March 18 over a tea for nearly 50 minutes in Mohali after which speculations were rife that the latter will be reinducted into the state cabinet.

Captain Amarinder Singh (left) with Navjot Singh Sidhu.


However, later in May, Sidhu once again attacked Singh over the 2015 Kotkapura firing, saying the Punjab and Haryana High court’s order to form a new SIT to probe the incident was accepted by the state government to “deflect” people’s attention.

Sidhu has been targeting Amarinder Singh over the alleged delay in delivering justice in the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and post sacrilege police firing incident.

Forced retirement

The rivalry between Sidhu and Singh became intense as elections in the northern state came close. Congress high command’s internal feedback reportedly suggested that Singh is facing heavy anti-incumbency and may not deliver a victory for the party in 2022 polls.

Sensing the changing public mood, the Congress appointed Navjot Singh Sidhu as President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC). That must have not gone down well with Captain Singh. To irk him more, Sidhu lined up 62 MLAs in show of strength after his appointment as President of Punjab Congress.


Sidhu and his supporters at Golden Temple. (Indian Express)


The relationship between them soured thereafter and Congress high command realised that it was time to intervene. Captain Amarinder Singh was asked to resign as Chief Minister, which he readily did. But he also called out Congress leadership.

“I had informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi this morning that I will be tendering my resignation today. The party seemed to have an element of doubt that I could not run the government. I feel humiliated,” said Singh after resigning, adding that he had been summoned thrice over the last two months by the central leadership.

It was quite a bitter breakup. Amarinder Singh, after serving twice as Congress’ Chief Minister, will now fight the Congress party in upcoming elections. Mr Singh has been acting like an angry ex even after the high command kept Sidhu away from the CM’s chair, something captain had himself asked for. The Maharaja’s ego has been bruised by the Congress high command’s apathy towards him, someone who has won two assembly elections for the party. However, after excelling in everything he has done in life, why does he want to start a new political party at this age?

On a lighter note, Mr Singh should listen to a message by his coursemate Captain Chanan Singh Sidhu. In a funny video viral on social media sites, Captain Sidhu advised Captain Singh to “prepare lamb, have whiskey and enjoy yourself”.

For a 79-year old, starting a new political party would take unprecedented involvement with people and cadre. For Mr Singh, who is often accused of running the government from his farmhouse, it will take extraordinary efforts to pull off an upset in the Punjab polls.

Why does a man of Mr Singh’s stature look so desperate to survive in politics? Can he not just let it go? Has he not achieved enough in his life?

Well, all our questions stand null and void for now as Captain Amarinder Singh, wounded but determined, continues to be in politics and wants to win election. For now, he has made it clear that he will not go down without a fight, after what he calls an “insulting” behaviour meted out by the Congress party. Captain Amarinder Singh will not let it go!


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