This Article is From Jun 22, 2021

"Who Is Amarinder Singh...": Navjot Singh Sidhu Amid Punjab Congress Infighting

"I am always ready to work with him if issues are resolved," Navjot Singh Sidhu said of Amarinder Singh, who has been in his crosshairs especially since he quit the Punjab government in 2019.

Navjot Singh Sidhu asserted that he was not hankering for any post (File)

New Delhi:

Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose revolt threatens to inflict major damage on the Congress as it fights for re-election in Punjab next year, said on Monday that he was "willing to work with Amarinder Singh" but added a condition for his in-house adversary.

"I am always ready to work with him but if issues are resolved," Navjot Sidhu said of the Punjab Chief Minister, who has been in his crosshairs for much of the past four years.

Amarinder Singh has so far shown few signs of accommodating Mr Sidhu's demands, which include fair representation in the government and the party in the state.

On Monday, the Chief Minister was called to Delhi for the second time by a Congress panel tasked with recommending a solution to the infighting that will satisfy all sides. Does he think Mr Singh, aka "the Captain", is shutting the door on him?

"Who is he to close doors to Navjot Singh Sidhu? He lost three elections, he lost his deposit and later Madam Sonia (Gandhi) makes him the party president. He threatened to split the party," Mr Sidhu lashed out, insisting that it was the Chief Minister who was isolated.

Mr Sidhu, 57, said all 78 Congress MLAs in the 117-member state assembly were with him.

He snapped at Mr Singh for suggesting that his rebellion was weakening the party, accusing him of "talking nonsense". The cricketer-turned-politician asserted that he was not hankering for any post. "Prove that I have asked for any post in the last 17 years," he said.

"Who says I am damaging the party? It is damaging if you address issues like sacrilege? Every MLA is raising this issue. All 78 MLAs are with me. If everything is ok then why did the party set up a three-member panel," he questioned.

"I am a true soldier of the party. He has been summoned twice to Delhi."

Mr Sidhu said he refused to be treated as a "showpiece" during elections. "With a few months left to the elections, first I get an invitation to tea, then lunch. Then Sidhu will be decorated like a showpiece in the Congress campaign," he said.

He referred to his entry into the Congress before the 2017 Punjab election. "Prashant Kishor came to me 60 times. Ask him. He said you meet the high command - they are wonderful upright people. I campaigned in 56 seats and the party won 54."

Two years after he joined Mr Singh's cabinet, Mr Sidhu quit amid rising tensions with his boss after a perceived downgrade in his portfolio.

After a long sulk, Mr Sidhu recently launched fresh attacks on the Chief Minister after the Punjab government suffered a legal setback in a 2015 case involving the desecration of the Sikh religious text Guru Granth Sahib and police firing during peaceful protests, which are very emotive issues ahead of elections in the state.

The attacks turned into a full-fledged revolt against Mr Singh.

The Chief Minister's new move to give government jobs to the sons of two Congress MLAs on "compassionate" grounds has again raised loud protests. "You give jobs to elitist people, sons of MLAs...," Mr Sidhu said.

Asked whether he was gearing up to do a Jyotiraditya Scindia or Jitin Prasada and leave the Congress for the BJP, Mr Sidhu said: "The high command are wonderful people. From Day One I have followed a pro-people agenda."