- Nirmala Sitharaman said gesture was demoralising for soldiers in India
- Controversy over Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan army chief
- Mr Sidhu said he was told Pakistan would open Kartarpur border
Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu once again asserted that his hug to Pakistan's army chief has been blown out of proportion. Targeting the BJP on Wednesday, he said that it was just a "jhappi" (hug) and "not a Rafale deal". The cricketer-turned-politician's Congress party has been attacking the BJP-led government at the Centre over the Rafale fighter jet deal and alleged a scam worth several crore rupees in the matter.
After Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the gesture was demoralising for soldiers in India, Mr Sidhu told a group of journalists, "You start raking up this issue again. Sidhu has become such an important person that the defence minister makes a statement...It was just a 'jhappi' (hug)...It is not a conspiracy, 'jhappi' is not Rafale deal, 'jhappi' is not firing bullets at Gursikhs."
"You are not talking about sentiments of Sikhs and you have blown the one-second emotional hug out of proportion. Is it a conspiracy?" he asked.
On Tuesday, Ms Sitharaman said that Navjot Singh Sidhu's gesture of hugging Pakistan's army chief impacted soldiers back home, adding that the Punjab minister could have "avoided it".
Navjot Singh Sidhu courted controversy by hugging Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Pakistan for the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister last month. Mr Khan is a former Pakistani cricketer.
Mr Sidhu asked whether players will not shake hands when a cricket match takes place between India and Pakistan. "Do not shake hands when there is going to be a cricket match between India and Pakistan. Will you not shake hands? If Pakistan PM, who is a good man and had played several matches here, shakes hands with Indian team or hugs player like Virat (Kohli), will he show his back to him," he said.
Navjot Singh Sidhu had earlier said that he hugged Mr Bajwa after he told him that Pakistan would open the Kartarpur border for Sikhs from India's Punjab to visit to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.
Criticizing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the BJP, Navjot Singh Sidhu said it was "frustrated" and accused the party of creating hurdles in the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara corridor issue.
"Be partner in this good work. Why are you creating hurdles in it," said Mr Sidhu while criticising Akali Dal leaders without naming them.
"What am I saying is that just get a letter written (from Centre to Pakistan over passage issue) and get it released," he said, adding that Pakistan had already shown positive intent on this issue.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Tuesday had attacked Navjot Singh Sidhu, accusing him of lying to people on the matter. Mr Sukhbir had called Sidhu as the "biggest traitor" of the country for embracing the Pakistan Army chief.