I’m My Own Captain: Amarinder Singh Gives Up Chair 2nd Time in Life to Call Himself ‘People's Maharaja’

·3 min read

Not used to hearing a ‘no’, Indira Gandhi got up from her chair and stormed out of the room, leaving Amarinder Singh on his own. Torn between his religion, political future and close association with the Gandhi family, Amarinder left his resignation on her table and walked out of the room soon after.

Noted journalist Khushwant Singh in his bookAmarinder Singh: The People’s Maharaja, an authorised biography, narrates a candid conversation in 1984 between Indira Gandhi and Captain Amarinder Singh in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star that led to the latter quitting Parliament as well as the Congress party.

In his 52-year career, it’s moments of defiance like these that have defined the politics of the 79-year-old scion of Patiala. His short stint in the Army coupled with his participation in the 1965 war ensured his strong views on nationalism vis-à-vis his political career.

The fact that he brought his battle-hardened approach to politics became clear when he won Punjab for the Congress in 2017 staving off a huge Narendra Modi wave sweeping across the country. The victory was also significant as the Congress came back to power after staying out for a decade since its 2007 defeat.

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The Captain has been fiercely vocal on issues of nationalism and the tense relationship with Pakistan. He minced no words in criticising his then cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu when he went to Pakistan for the Imran Khan swearing-in ceremony and embraced then ISI Chief General Bajwa there.

In strict sense, Captain Amarinder Singh has not been a ‘pure Congressman’. He had a seven-year stint with the Akali Dal which ended in 1992 when he broke off and formed his own front, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic), which later converged with the Congress in 1998.

He returned to the Congress and went on to become the Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007. He served as the state unit president on two occasions, from 1999 to 2002 and 2010 to 2013.

Even in his resignation as the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh did what he has been doing all along, stand by his decision and listen to his mind.

He has been known since his past tenures as someone outspoken by nature even at the cost of not toeing the party line, and at times taking on the party high command; not so typical to the Congress culture.

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During his first stint as the Chief Minister in 2002, Amarinder Singh had upset party chief Sonia Gandhi when he legislated the state out of the Satluj Yamuna Canal Link (SYS) agreement without keeping her in the loop. Sonia had reportedly refused to even meet him for months. His decision helped him not only in Punjab but boosted his image nationally too. Amarinder proved that he works with an independent mind.

The Captain knew how to address issues and spoke his mind when it came to national security. It was after the Pulwama attack that a visibly disturbed CM had addressed the Punjab assembly saying, “I want to tell this to General Bajwa (Pakistan army chief) that if you are a Punjabi, we too are Punjabis and if you dare to enter our territory, we will set you right.”

When he walked out of the Raj Bhavan after resigning on Saturday evening, he asserted that “future politics” was left in him, a declaration that the fire in him has yet not faded.

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