Amid Row Over Pakistan Visit, Sidhu Says 'Captain' Rahul Gandhi Sent Him for Kartarpur Ceremony
Amarinder Singh, who said on record he tried to dissuade Sidhu, a member of his cabinet, following a grenade attack on a religious congregation in Amritsar that left three people dead, but he paid no heed.
File image of Navjot Singh Sidhu with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. (Chintan Dev Puri/Network18)
Hyderabad: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday said it was his ‘Captain’, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had sent him to Pakistan to attend the foundation-laying ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor.
Sidhu, who is at the centre of a raging row over his visit to the neighbouring country, said: "Rahul Gandhi is my captain. It is he who sent me to Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Amarinder) also.” The Punjab minister was responding to a question on Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh’s disapproval of his trip.
Sidhu's visit had riled Singh, who said on record he tried to dissuade his minister following a grenade attack on a religious congregation in Amritsar that left three people dead, but he paid no heed. Singh had blamed Pakistan's spy agency ISI for the attack.
Describing Singh as a “father figure” to him, Sidhu said 50-100 Congress leaders, including Shashi Tharoor, Harish Rawat and Randeep Surjewala "patted" him on his back for the visit.
When asked about Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's remark that Prime Minister Imran Khan's "googly" compelled India to send two Union ministers for the Kartarpur event, Sidhu said, "How do you bowl a googly to a batsman. I have never left such a ball."
On the controversy over his photograph with pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla, the Punjab minister said 10,000 people took selfies with him and he did not know the man. "When 10,000 people are taking selfies with you, how do you know who is Chawla? How? This is absolute rubbish. Last time when I went to Pakistan I was sitting with someone who was again controversial.
"Am I supposed to see where I sit. When you are going to another country, you are looked after by them. Anybody who comes to me...I don't break hearts...come here and take a photograph," he said, adding the man identified as Chawla was seen "everywhere" during the trip, including with Union
Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Responding to another question about Imran Khan saying he could easily win an election in Pakistan, Sidhu said what the Pakistan premier meant was that he (Sidhu) was very popular in that country and that people there loved him. "I have won six elections here. Only a popular person can win six elections. Ask Smriti Irani (union minister) how many elections she has won," he said.
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