New Delhi: Former Punjab chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Captain Amarinder Singh is tipped to be the next Maharashtra governor, replacing Bhagat Singh Koshyari who had courted controversy with his remarks on Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
He has informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he wishes to step down from the post.
"During the recent visit of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to Mumbai, I have conveyed to him my desire to be discharged of all political responsibilities and to spend the remainder of my life in reading, writing and other activities," he said.
"It was an absolute honour and privilege for me to serve as the Rajya Sevak or Rajyapal of a great State like Maharashtra – the land of Saints, Social reformers and valiant fighters," he added.
A statement by the Raj Bhavan also said: "Governor Koshyari has expressed his desire to spend the rest of his life in reading, writing and other leisurely activities."
Koshyari, 80, had a frequent run-in with the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government, led by Uddhav Thackeray.
It is learned that the former Punjab chief minister might be sent to Maharashtra as his replacement.
Amarinder was recently inducted into the BJP’s national executive, a high-profile panel that has 83 members. The BJP’s national executive is equivalent to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the grand old party’s highest decision-making body. The national executive is also a central decision-making body of the BJP. It has 55 special invitees and 179 permanent invitees, including chief ministers.
At 80, Amarinder had already crossed the age bar of 75 years set by the BJP leadership for its members to hold any post in the government or the party or to contest any election. However, the option of becoming a governor was always there.
It is said that he has been sounded out about the decision. A move by the BJP to cancel its proposed January 29 rally in Patiala, the home turf of Amarinder, signalled that something is brewing in the saffron party. The rally was billed as the launch of the BJP’s campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in the border state.
Though the BJP was initially banking on him to make some inroads in Punjab ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, it has now realised that Amarinder cannot bring much to its table in Punjab except that he is a prominent Jat Sikh face with good credentials, having served the Indian army apart from being the chief minister of Punjab twice – first from 2002 to 2007 and then from 2017 to 2021.
Having quit the Congress in 2021 following his unceremonious removal as the Punjab chief minister, he went on to form his own party, the Punjab Lok Congress, which later merged with the BJP.
The veteran leader has lost the connect with the ground over the years though he tried to stay politically relevant by supporting the farmers in their agitation against the three farm laws, which were eventually withdrawn by the central government after a year-long protest at Delhi borders. But even that didn’t help him win his own seat (Patiala Urban) in the assembly elections last year. He lost to Aam Aadmi Party candidate Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, barely managing to save his deposit.
Amarinder will have to resign from the BJP and give up electoral politics in case he is appointed to the gubernatorial post. That will also bring curtains to his long innings in Punjab politics. He has limited options now, but will he agree to it is something to watch out for.