Four Punjab ministers sought the suspension of Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu from the party today for repeatedly targeting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, alleging that the Amritsar East MLA's attacks might be instigated by the Aam Aadmi Party or the BJP.
Earlier, three other ministers -- Brahm Mohindra, Sunder Sham Arora and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot -- had urged the Congress high-command for strict disciplinary action against Sidhu for his "outbursts" against the chief minister.
The cricketer-turned-politician's "provocative and targeted" attacks on the chief minister are an "invitation for disaster" for the Congress, state ministers Balbir Sidhu, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar said today.
"He (Mr Sidhu) should be immediately suspended, if not expelled, as his continued presence in the Punjab Congress is creating a mess in the party's state unit and diverting its attention from the more important task of gearing up for the polls," they added.
The ministers did not rule out a collusion between Mr Sidhu and opposition parties in the state such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
It is quite possible that Mr Sidhu's "targeted" attacks on the chief minister were instigated by AAP or BJP leaders to create problems in the ruling party to further their electoral agenda in the state, a Punjab Congress release quoted them as saying.
"The manner in which Sidhu had launched the offensive against the state government, particularly Amarinder, suggested a conspiracy against the chief minister," it added.
Mr Sidhu has been repeatedly attacking the chief minister over the alleged delay in delivering justice in connection with the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib and police-firing incidents in the state in 2015.
Gurpreet Kangar, who joined the chorus for action against Sidhu on Wednesday, was part of a meeting of three ministers and two MPs, in which they expressed concern over the delay in action against the perpetrators of the sacrilege and police-firing incidents.
Besides Gurpreet Kangar, ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa and Charanjit Singh Channi, and MPs Ravneet Bittu and Partap Singh Bajwa attended the meeting on Monday, amid a political turmoil in the Punjab Congress.
According to the Punjab Congress release, the four ministers said the Amritsar East MLA's verbal assaults on the chief minister were an open rebellion against the party.
Terming Mr Sidhu's "blatant defiance" as an "act of total indiscipline", they said such anti-party activities cannot be tolerated by any political establishment and more so in a poll-bound state.
Pointing to Mr Sidhu's track record of "controversial" statements, the ministers said "the ex-cricketer evidently seems, as usual, to be batting for himself, and is totally lacking in team spirit -- a trait that he has displayed in the political arena more than once".
His habit of biting the hand that feeds him had made him a persona non grata (person not welcome) in his former party (BJP), they said while calling for stern action against the MLA.
"He is nothing but a trouble-maker, whose contribution to the Congress and the state government in Punjab in all these years has been virtually nil," the ministers said.
They also questioned the rationale behind allowing Sidhu, a former minister, to continue in the Congress at a time when the party is preparing for next year's Assembly polls in Punjab and the state government is battling an unprecedented crisis triggered by COVID-19.
Citing the chief minister's open challenge to Sidhu to contest against him from Patiala instead of raving and ranting against him publicly, the ministers said the cricketer-turned-politician should quit the Congress and pit his "self-proclaimed" might against that of Singh if he really believes in his own political prowess.
Attacking the chief minister on social media platforms can hardly be termed as an endorsement of Mr Sidhu's political clout or popularity, they said.