India: Former Punjab chief minister, Congress parliamentarians resign over top court verdict on Sutlej water sharing

'Please ask Rahul Gandhi,' Amarinder Singh said when asked if he was the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress in the upcoming polls in Punjab. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Chandigarh, India Nov 10, 2016, 12.12 PM (IST)

After India's Supreme Court held as 'unconstitutional' a 2004 law passed by the Punjab government which had terminated a water sharing agreement with neighbouring states, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh resigned from his Parliament seat on Thursday. His Congress party legislators resigned from the state assembly "in protest against the injustice meted out to the people of the state," news agency PTI reported.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal told news agency ANI that the verdict was not acceptable to the government, declaring "not a single drop of water will be allowed to go out of state." He said an emergency of the state assembly would be held on November 16 which would call on the President not to accept the top court's decision.

Badal also said Amarinder's resignation was a "drama" orchestrated ahead of the assembly elections in January.

The top court had ruled that the  legislation passed by the state to terminate the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal water sharing agreement was "null and void." The court was giving its verdict on questions referred to it by the President about the validity of the decree passed by the state government. Punjab cannot wriggle out of its water-sharing agreement with other states including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. 

About sharing water with neighbouring Haryana, Badal said, "Every state has its interests...but we do have any water to spare...I would say that to save the nation, one should not take water from Punjab."

Amarinder Singh sent his resignation to the speaker of Parliament's legislative body Lok Sabha, a copy of which was released to the press. 

In his resignation letter, Amarinder Singh described the SYL verdict as a "major blow to the people of Punjab," blaming the Parkash Badal-led Akali government for not defending the state's stand on the matter in court.

He also accused Badal of selling off the interests of the people of Punjab by "taking money from Haryana" and trying to help Himachal Pradesh, by suggesting that it demand royalty from Punjab, PTI reported.

"The Akalis let down the people of Punjab on this critical issue, selling off their interests to Haryana," said Amarinder, accusing the Badal government of promoting its "vested political interests at the cost of the interests of the state."

The party MLAs have also sent their resignations to the Punjab Assembly's speaker and will meet him tomorrow morning to personally hand over their papers.

(WION with inputs from agencies)