In fresh trouble for the Congress in Punjab, the war between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu intensified further on Thursday after the cabinet minister skipped a meeting called by the chief minister.
As the rift between the leaders widens, sources aware of the developments say a cabinet reshuffle is on the cards after the Congress’s humiliating defeat in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections and it is likely that Sidhu’s portfolio is changed.
Addressing reporters after the cabinet meet, Sidhu said he could not be taken for granted. “Urban seats had a pivotal role in Congress party's win in Lok Sabha elections in the state. Chief Minister gave me responsibility of two districts in Punjab. We won big in these two districts,” he said.
Sidhu added, “It is a collective responsibility. My department has been singled out publicly. One must have the ability to see things in the right perspective. I cannot be taken for granted. I have been a performer throughout. I am answerable to the people of Punjab.”
Earlier, the chief minister had said Sidhu’s performance as a minister needed to be reviewed as he had “not been able to handle his own department”. He added that Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan, where he created a furore by hugging the neighbour’s army chief, and his remarks on the desecration of religious texts in 2015 had dented the grand old party’s poll prospects.
Reacting to the allegation, Sidhu said he had been unfairly “singled out” for the poor performance of the Congress and some people wanted him out of the party.
Sidhu had accused the Chief Minister of being responsible for the denial of a poll ticket to his wife Navjot Kaur from Chandigarh. During the campaign, he also tried to corner his own government by questioning why no criminal case was lodged against former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in connection with the 2015 sacrilege and police-firing incidents.
An upset Singh had said it was for the high command to decide on any action against Sidhu but the party did not tolerate indiscipline. Responding to a question, Singh said he did not have any personal grievances with Sidhu, whom he had known since the latter was a child. “Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be chief minister,” Captain said.
Sidhu has been facing flak for his tirade against the chief minister and several of his colleagues have suggested that he should quit the party if he can’t work under Singh’s leadership.