The Punjab chief minister’s reaction will ensure that when the assembly meets Friday, the opposition will attack the minister, not him.
Chandigarh: Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and his cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu are back in conflict after the hullabaloo over the latter’s visit to Pakistan to attend fellow former cricketer Imran Khan’s swearing-in as prime minister.
Sidhu’s hug to Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa after the latter shook hands with him sparked a controversy back home. He was also criticised for sitting next to the ‘president’ of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Sidhu was among three Indian cricketers invited for the ceremony; the other two — Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev — did not go citing personal reasons.
Reactions to the controversy
While a host of national-level Congress leaders as well as state party chief Sunil Jakhar justified Sidhu’s visit, terming it “personal and not political”, Amarinder made it clear Sunday that he disapproved of Sidhu hugging Pakistan’s army chief. “It was not a nice gesture and completely avoidable,” the CM said in Chandigarh.
The issue has refused to die down. The Akali Dal has asked for Sidhu’s resignation and is expected to put the treasury benches on the backfoot in the assembly session beginning Friday. The CM’s reaction to Sidhu’s visit will ensure that the opposition is on Sidhu’s back, not his.
“Sidhu should have avoided indulging in such a gesture when Indian soldiers are getting killed every day on the borders. After all, it is the army chief who gives the orders to kill, with the soldiers merely following the same,” said the CM.
“Bajwa is responsible for the deaths of our soldiers and Sidhu should not have shown such niceties towards him,” said Amarinder.
Sidhu tried to put an end to the controversy Tuesday, issuing a statement that his hug was an “emotional reaction” to the offer to open up the Kartarpur corridor, a long-standing demand of Sikhs. He said he was hurt over the criticism being heaped upon him.
Asked to react to the CM’s statement, Sidhu said in a democracy everyone could put forth their views. “Captain sahab put forth his views and I am putting across mine,” he told mediapersons.
While the CM dismissed the opposition’s demand for Sidhu’s resignation as “not important” in public, his condemnation is set to widen the growing differences between the two. Sidhu has been coaxing the CM to follow an aggressive and hostile policy towards the Akalis, while the CM is seen as continuing with a soft approach towards his predecessors in power.
Sidhu has promised that he will lay bare every “mafia” or “racket” being allegedly run by the Badals during their regime, and sought action from the chief minister. Till now, he has submitted several such reports to the CM, but no action has been taken on any of his “findings”.
Sidhu’s differences with the way the CM is running the state are also well known. The former MP for Amritsar admitted he was “hurt” at not being involved in the mayoral polls in January. Sidhu’s policy on regularising illegal colonies in the state was rejected by his cabinet colleagues, as was a policy drafted by him on illegal mining.
Sidhu is also being seen as politically detaching himself from the CM’s leadership and building a direct bond with the central leadership. He is often in Delhi meeting senior Congress leaders. Some even say that he is trying to project himself as the next CM candidate for the state.