Sonia Gandhi Conceded “Shielding” Amarinder Singh Was Mistake: Sources

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Sonia Gandhi was asked about the Punjab debacle at the CWC meet on Sunday. (File)

New Delhi:

At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Sunday, party chief Sonia Gandhi said that shielding former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh despite a growing pushback against him within the party’s state unit was a “mistake”, sources have told NDTV.

The Congress held a marathon meeting for nearly five hours on Sunday to dissect its disastrous performance in the five state elections last week that included the party losing one of the last three states it ruled on its own.

When a senior leader questioned the timing of Amarinder Singh’s removal as Chief Minister, late last year, saying it should have been done much earlier and was very badly handled, Sonia Gandhi intervened and said she was to be blamed as she shielded him for a long time, sources said.

“She admitted that it was her mistake and error of judgment to have allowed him to continue as Chief Minister,” NDTV was told by a party leader who attended the meeting that reposed its faith in the Gandhis as its captains.

After months of internal wrangling between Amarinder Singh and the party’s state chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, the former Chief Minister was asked to step down in September, with just five months to go for the elections that were held in February.

He launched a new party, the Punjab Lok Congress, and fought the elections with the BJP, failing to win a single seat including his long-time bastion of Patiala.

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After Captain Singh’s departure, the Congress was besieged by another surreptitious rivalry between his successor Charanjit Singh Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu that led to a tug-of-war for the party’s Chief Ministerial nomination.

That feud was settled by senior leader Rahul Gandhi, less than two weeks before the elections, who picked Mr Channi, praising him as the “son of a poor household” while his nephew came under anti-corruption raids.

The Congress scored just 18 seats out of 117 while the eight-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got 92, closing a stunning sweep led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab nominee Bhagwant Mann.

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