CHANDIGARH — The simmering tension between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu was out in the open again on Sunday with the former accusing the cricketer-turned-politician of damaging the Congress with his “irresponsible actions” just before polls.
Though Singh stressed that he had no personal differences with the Punjab tourism and cultural affairs minister, yet he said Sidhu was perhaps “ambitious” and “wanted to be the chief minister”.
“If he (Sidhu) was a real Congressmen, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances, instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab,” the chief minister said here.
“He is harming the party with such irresponsible actions. It is not his election but that of the entire Congress’s,” he added.
Singh’s statement criticising one of his own ministers came on a day when all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab went to the polls.
The chief minister was apparently referring to Sidhu’s “rebellious” remarks in Bathinda on May 17, when he appeared to corner the Congress government in the state over the issue of desecration of religious scriptures and questioned why no FIR was lodged against the Badals in connection with the 2015 sacrilege and police-firing incidents.
Sidhu, who was campaigning in favour of Congress nominee Amarinder Singh Raja Warring in Bathinda, had even said he would resign if action was not taken against those behind the 2015 desecration incidents.
Singh said it was for the party high-command to decide on any action against Sidhu, but the Congress, as a party, did not tolerate indiscipline.
He, personally, did not have any differences with Sidhu, whom he had known since the latter was a child, the chief minister added.
“Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be the chief minister,” Singh said.
Such irritants notwithstanding, the chief minister exuded confidence about a Congress victory in all the 13 seats of the state, saying he was getting very positive reports from all the constituencies.
A few days ago, Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu had blamed Singh and the Congress’s Punjab affairs in-charge, Asha Kumari, for denying her a poll ticket from the Amritsar parliamentary seat.
Though Singh had refuted the charge, Sidhu had backed his wife’s accusation, saying she would “never lie”.
“My wife has that much strength and moral authority that she will never lie. This is my answer,” Sidhu had said on May 16, when he was told that the chief minister had refuted Kaur’s allegations.
Earlier also, the tension between Singh and Sidhu had come out in the public.
Last year, Sidhu had said in Hyderabad, ”(Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi is my captain...Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Singh) also.”
Singh had earlier disapproved of Sidhu hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to the neighbouring country.