CHANDIGARH: Hours after Congress leader Harish Rawat questioned his secular credentials in no-holds-barred attack, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said on Friday it was prompted by the "pathetic situation" the party has now found itself.
"Three weeks before stepping down as CM, I had offered my resignation to Sonia Gandhi but she had asked me to continue," said Singh in a statement here, ridiculing Rawat's remarks that he seemed to be under pressure.
The former chief minister said the only pressure he had been under for the past few months was that of his own loyalty to the Congress, because of which he continued to tolerate insult after insult.
Punjab Congress in-charge Rawat had on Friday, in a press conference in Dehradun, countered Singh, who has said he would leave the party as he had been "utterly humiliated", saying that the Punjab leader must reject any attempt by the BJP if they try to make him their mask in the state.
He also said Singh's "proximity" with BJP leaders like Amit Shah puts a question mark on his secular credentials.
Reacting to Rawat's remarks, Singh said even his worst critics and enemies could not doubt his integrity in this regard.
"But I am no longer surprised that a senior and seasoned Congress leader like Rawat is questioning my secular credentials. It is quite evident that I am no longer trusted and respected in the party that I have served loyally all these years," he said, adding that "such remarks are prompted by the pathetic situation the party has now found itself in Punjab after being on a winning spree for four-and-a-half years".
Singh added that the humiliating manner in which he was pushed into resigning just hours before the CLP meeting that was clearly convened to oust him, was a matter of public record.
"The world saw the humiliation and the insult heaped on me, and yet Mr Rawat is making claims to the contrary," he remarked, asking "if this was not humiliation then what was it?" Rawat, he said, should put himself in his shoes, and then, perhaps, "he would realise how insulting the entire affair was".
Singh, who has scotched speculation of his joining the BJP but said he will quit the Congress, recalled that Rawat himself had publicly stated after meeting him that he was satisfied by his (Amarinder Singh) government's track record on the 2017 poll promises.
In fact, Rawat had categorically stated, as recently as September 1, that the 2022 elections would be fought under his (Singh's) leadership and the high command had no intention of replacing him, he pointed out.
"So, how can he now claim that the party leadership was dissatisfied with me, and if they were, then why did he deliberately keep me in the dark all this time?" Singh asked.
"If the party did not intend to humiliate him then why was Navjot Singh Sidhu allowed to openly criticise and attack on social media and other public platforms for months? Why did the party give the rebels, led by Sidhu, a free hand in undermining my authority?" He said, "Why was no cognizance given to the uninterrupted spree of electoral wins I handed over to the party through the four-and-a-half years I was in the saddle?" Singh asked why the Congress was allowing Sidhu even now to hold the party to "ransom and continue to dictate terms".
"What is the pressure he exerts on the party leadership that they are so defenseless against him and are allowing him to have his way even to the cost of the Congress' future in Punjab?" he asked.
Singh also denied allegations that he had refused to meet Charanjit Singh Channi after the latter's swearing-in as Punjab chief minister.
He said Channi had called him up on the day of his swearing-in and was supposed to come over but failed to turn up.
As for not taking Rawat's calls, Singh said it was all humbug.
"We spoke just a day before the CLP meeting was called. Rawat told me then there was nothing in the works and even claimed he had not seen any letter sent by 43 MLAs. I am shocked at the blatant way in which he is now lying about this," the former chief minister added.
Singh said as the chief minister twice and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief on three occasions, he had worked with stalwarts like Pranab Mukherjee, Moti Lal Vohra, Mohsina Kidwai, Meira Kumar and Shakeel Ahmed as Congress in-charge for Punjab.
"I never had a single problem with any of them. I fail to understand Mr. Rawat's behaviour and actions," he added.
Singh dismissed as total nonsense Rawat's remarks that he was 'circulating the theory of humiliation after meeting Amit Shah', and pointed out that he had clearly said on the day of his resignation (long before his meeting with the Union home minister) that he had been humiliated by thrice by the Congress party, which had sidelined him to convene CLP meetings twice in Delhi and the last time in Chandigarh even though he was the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader then.
As for implementation of poll promises, the former chief minister said contrary to the lies being touted by Rawat, he had fulfilled nearly 90 per cent of the promises made in the 2017 election manifesto, which was a matter of record and could not be negated with frivolous and baseless statements.