New Delhi: Breaking his silence after a week, Navjot Singh Sidhu today said he resigned as a BJP parliamentarian because he had been asked to "not even look at" Punjab, where elections will be held next year.
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In an angst-filled statement punctuated by his trademark couplets, Mr Sidhu managed to dodge questions on whether he plans to join Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
"I was asked to stay away from Punjab. How can I quit my roots? The first time can be a mistake. But this is the fourth time it is happening...it was hard to take in," Mr Sidhu, 52, told reporters in Delhi, eyes flashing with indignation.
"When the going gets tough, it is Sidhu Sidhu...but now they say don't look at Punjab....Have I done anything wrong? At least tell me my crime? Should I stay away to serve the personal interests of some people?" said the cricketer-turned-politician known for his garrulous commentary, not just on cricket.
"No party in the world is bigger than Punjab. I am willing to accept the consequences," he declared.
Sharing that he contested and won in Amritsar in the 2004 national election at 14 days' notice on receiving a phone call from former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he quipped: "There was a time when I was their only winner in north India. Then the Modi wave came...it sank not just the opposition but Sidhu as well."
Mr Sidhu's sudden resignation last Tuesday instantly triggered speculation that he is moving to the AAP, which has seen a surge in its popularity in Punjab in the months ahead of the elections.
Mr Kejriwal revealed nothing as he tweeted: "Sidhu would have spoken against drugs if he went to Punjab. Who was BJP trying to protect? Shocking."
Mr Sidhu was nominated to the Rajya Sabha earlier this year in a move that was seen as propitiation after he was asked to make way for Arun Jaitley in Amritsar for the 2014 national election.
BJP sources denied that he had been asked to stay away from Punjab. "His name was added for the state core group by the central leadership, because they wanted him to take part in the campaign actively," they said.