Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday resigned as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, plunging the party into a fresh crisis just months ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
Hours later, Razia Sultana, a part of the new 18-member ministry led by Charanjit Singh Channi, too put in her papers, expressing solidarity with the former cricketer.
Sidhu, 57, who announced his resignation shortly after the allocation of portfolios to the members of the new state Cabinet, said he remains with the party.
He was appointed the party's state unit president on July 18 amid a bitter power tussle with Amarinder Singh, who stepped down as the CM 10 days back while accusing the party high command of humiliating him.
Sidhu didn't elaborate why he has quit.
But speculation in party circles on the reason ranges from his displeasure over the allocation of the home portfolio to Deputy CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to the appointments of the acting police chief and the state advocate general by the new CM.
"The collapse of a man's character stems from the compromise corner, I can never compromise on Punjab's future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab," he said in his letter to Sonia Gandhi.
"Therefore, I hereby resign as the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. Will continue to serve the Congress," the letter made public on Twitter said.
Amarinder Singh, who had called Sidhu dangerous and anti-national , and threatened to pit a strong candidate against him in the coming elections ensuring that he doesn't become the chief minister, was quick to react.
I told you so he is not a stable man and not fit for the border state of Punjab, the former CM tweeted.
The abrupt resignation took place on a day Amarinder Singh was headed to Delhi, and the day before Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was scheduled to visit Punjab and make some big announcements .
Singh's travel plan had triggered speculation that he might meet some BJP leaders.
His media aide, however, said the Congress veteran had come to the capital on a personal visit and will vacate Kapurthala House, where the Punjab CM stays during trips to Delhi.
In her resignation letter to Chief Minister Channi, Razia Sultana wrote that she is quitting the ministry in solidarity with Sidhu. Her husband Mohd Mustafa, a former IPS officer, is his principal strategic adviser.
Earlier in the day, Sultana was given the charge of the water supply and sanitation, social security, women and child development, printing and stationery departments.
She held the transport department in the Amarinder Singh-led government.
Channi, once considered a Sidhu loyalist, claimed he was not aware of his resignation. I have not received such information, he told reporters.
Asked if Sidhu was upset over the allocation of the home portfolio to Randhawa and some other appointments, he said, We will sit with Sidhu Saheb and talk to him. He is our president and a good leader.
Earlier, Sidhu is said to have opposed Randhawa's appointment as the CM, a post which ultimately went to Channi.
There have been other appointments recently that may have upset Sidhu, according to the speculation in Chandigarh.
Rana Gurjit Singh was included in the ministry despite protests by some party leaders over his tainted past. He had to resign from the Amarinder Singh ministry over allegations of impropriety in the auction of sand-mining contracts.
Sidhu was also said to be unhappy that MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra was denied a berth in the Channi ministry.
Then there was the appointment of A P S Deol as the state's new Advocate General. As a senior advocate, Deol was a counsel for former Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini.
Sidhu is learnt to have backed D S Patwalia for the post.
A few days back, senior IPS officer Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota was given the additional charge of Director General of Police of Punjab, amid reports that Sidhu was batting for 1986-batch IPS officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya.
Though Sidhu loyalist may argue that he was being ignored , his rivals and the opposition saw him as a leader who enjoyed the confidence of the Congress high command - and would overshadow Channi as the elections neared.
Amarinder Singh called him the Super CM .
Sidhu's resignation has prompted speculation over the next move of the politician, who was with the BJP before he joined the Congress.
In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party claimed that Sidhu resigned because a Dalit was made the chief minister. Channi, who took charge last week, is the state's first Scheduled Caste chief minister.
Sidhu began his political innings in 2004 with the BJP and defeated Congress heavyweight R L Bhatia in the Lok Sabha contest in Amritsar.
His ties with the BJP frayed when the party fielded senior leader Arun Jaitley from Amritsar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Though he was accommodated in the Rajya Sabha later, he quit the party to join the Congress.
Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the MLA from Amritsar (East), made way for him to contest the seat in 2017.
When the Congress returned to power in Punjab with an overwhelming majority in 2017, he became a minister but remained mostly at loggerheads with CM Amarinder Singh. He quit the state Cabinet in 2019.