New Delhi: June 6, 2019, scripted an unfortunate day for the Congress party with a widening rift reported from Punjab between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and senior leader Navjot Sidhu and losing its Opposition status in Telangana after 12 MLAs defected akin to a mass exodus.
Amid a massive meltdown between two higher-ups of state Congress on Thursday, Navjot Singh Sidhu was stripped of his Local Government portfolio and handed Power, New and Renewable Energy Portfolio by the chief minister.
On the other hand, 12 out of 18 Congress MLAs in Telangana Assembly ‘merged’ with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), increasing their tally in the House to 100 and reducing the Congress to a mere six- thereby also rendering it behind AIMIM which has seven MLAs in the Assembly. The Grand Old Party lost its status as the main Opposition party in Telangana.
Navjot Singh Sidhu skipped the Cabinet meeting being chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday, the second key meet of the week that he missed. Addressing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Sidhu said he could not be taken for granted.
He refuted charges of poor performance in elections.
Sidhu provided “facts” to prove that the Congress performed well in the Lok Sabha elections in urban areas too, and made it clear that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a performer throughout his life — be it in cricket, showbiz or politics.
The war of words between the Chief Minister and Sidhu intensified after Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for the Congress’ poor performance in the state’s urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.
The cause of the provocation was Sidhu’s controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue. He also blamed the Chief Minister for denial of party ticket to his wife from Chandigarh.
A major blow was delivered to the Congress party on Thursday when 12 of its MLAs in Telangana defected to TRS, thus reducing the party’s number in Assembly to six.
Speaker P Srinivas Reddy acceded to the request of the 12 MLAs considering the fact they constituted two-thirds of the Congress Legislature Party, a requirement for the merger under the anti-defection law.
Unless the merger is reversed, the Congress is set to lose its Opposition Party status in the assembly as its strength has come down to six.
The Speaker’s decision came after the embattled Congress cried foul, accusing the TRS of purchasing its MLAs and announcing its decision to move the court on Friday. Speaking to the media, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Uttam Kumar Reddy said, “The Speaker hasn’t withheld the dignity of his office. We tried to contact him by every means but he wasn’t available for us.”
This development comes in the backdrop of the Grand Old Party struggling to keep its flock together in various states including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and weighing in the alleged dispute between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot. The party’s fortunes have been in a tailspin since it suffered a humiliating defeat in the recently-concluded 2019 Lok Sabha elections, wherein it amassed only 52 seats out of a contest for 542.
With inputs from agencies