Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today said that his cabinet minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, "probably" wants to replace him as the head of the state government. His remark comes a day after Mr Sidhu said he firmly stands by his wife in a war of words with the Chief Minister over being denied a party ticket in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
Amarinder Singh accused the Sidhus of "harming" the Congress by making controversial statements just ahead of polling in the state. "He probably wants to become Chief Minister and replace me, that's his business. But the timing, one day before the election, that was wrong. It'll have an effect on the party, not on me. Congress party doesn't believe in indiscipline and it cannot accept things which are damaging the party," he said.
Mr Sidhu, while campaigning for Congress candidate Amrinder Singh Raja Warring in Bathinda on Friday, had even said he would resign if the government did not take action against those behind the Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege and police-firing incidents in 2015.
All 13 Lok Sabha constituencies of Punjab had voted in its final phase on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.
The Chief Minister, however, denied any rift in the state cabinet. "If he's ambitious, that's okay. Everyone is. I have known him (Navjot Sidhu) since childhood. I have no difference of opinion with him," he said.
Earlier this week, Navjot Sidhu came out in defence of Navjot Kaur Sidhu who claimed that it was Mr Singh who blocked her attempts to get a party ticket from Punjab's Amritsar and Chandigarh. Asked whether he agreed with his wife's remarks attacking the Chief Minister, Mr Sidhu said: "My wife has that much strength and moral authority that she will never lie. This is my answer."
On Thursday, Navjot Kaur Sidhu hit out at Amarinder Singh. "Captain Sahib (Amarinder Singh) and Asha Kumari think Madam Sidhu does not deserve a (MP) ticket. I was denied the ticket from Amritsar on the ground that I could not win."
Earlier, she wanted to contest election from Chandigarh but was denied a ticket and ex-Union Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was fielded from the seat. Mr Bansal lost the seat to BJP's Kirron Kher in the 2014 election.
"Ticket allocation was done by the Congress high command in Delhi, and they had chosen not to accept Navjot Kaur's application for ticket to contest from Chandigarh," Amarinder Singh said.
Tensions between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu aren't new. Mr Sidhu has often been accused of insubordination by his cabinet colleagues who have even called on him to resign from the government if he doesn't consider the Chief Minister his captain.
Last December, Mr Sidhu had been cautioned by the Congress party that he cannot defy or speak against Amarinder Singh. The party's warning came after Mr Sidhu, asked if he had defied the Chief Minister by going to Islamabad for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's swearing in, replied: "My captain is Rahul Gandhi. He has sent me everywhere. Our captain's captain is Rahul Gandhi".
Amarinder Singh, who had turned down Pakistan's invitation citing cross-border terror attacks in India, said he had also tried to dissuade Mr Sidhu.