Chandigarh: Congress MLA and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu Friday launched a direct attack on Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh over a desecration-related case, days after the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed an investigation into it.
Quashing the probe carried out by a Punjab Police Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the 2015 case, which pertains to police firing on people protesting against the desecration in Kotkapura, the high court called for a new team to be set up. The verdict came after the SIT’s investigation was challenged in court.
Sidhu has been indirectly lobbing potshots at the CM, who also holds the home portfolio, since the verdict on 9 April, accusing his government of not defending the case strongly in court. However, Friday, he tweeted a direct question at Amarinder, alleging that he was “evading responsibility” by shifting it to the government’s legal team, headed by the advocate general.
Is Sacrilege case not the top priority for the Home Minister ? Evading of responsibility & making only Advocate General (AG) a scapegoat means Executive Authority has No supervisory control. Who controls the AG ? Legal Team is just a pawn in this game of shifting responsibilities
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) April 23, 2021
The desecration incident involving the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib, as well as the firing, took place during the tenure of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government.
The investigation into the firing case was expected to rope in the Badals of the SAD and its quashing by the high court is being seen as a political setback to Amarinder a year before the 2022 assembly elections.
Amarinder’s close aide and advocate general Atul Nanda subsequently found himself in the firing line of the former’s detractors within the Congress.
Sidhu and Amarinder have been known to share a strained relationship, but were believed to have joined forces as the farmers protest gained steam late last year, with the Congress brass orchestrating the reconciliation.
ThePrint reached the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office by text for a comment on this report but there was no response by the time of publication.
Before the tweet Friday, Sidhu Wednesday posted a video compilation of his own speeches where he is heard alleging that politicians play “friendly matches” with one another, “taking the public for a ride”.
Carefully crafted collusive abetment leading to …
हम तो डूबेंगे सनम,
तुम्हें भी ले डूबेंगे I
It is not a failure of the Govt or the party, but one person who is hand in glove with the culprits. pic.twitter.com/tp1rOj8Xox
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) April 21, 2021
A senior Congress leader said the video was a very strong message from Sidhu to his followers.
“Interestingly, the first sentence of the video — picked up from Navjot Sidhu’s old press conference — says that in the day, politicians of various political parties abuse and criticise one another and in the evening they all get together in farmhouses and enjoy themselves,” the leader added.
“This, and all the other references in the video related to friendly matches. This is a very strong message to his followers where he is alluding that Amarinder is playing a friendly match with the Akalis,” the leader said.
On Tuesday, Sidhu tweeted another video that was meant to portray his agitation against the drug mafia in the state, demanding action on a report submitted by the police special task force that reportedly highlighted the role played by former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia — SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s brother-in-law — in narcotics trade.
Political experts see Friday’s tweet as another step towards Sidhu’s complete estrangement from Amarinder and a clear message to the party high command that he is unhappy.
“If the party high command does not intervene now, there is a possibility of the Congress losing Sidhu. In fact, Sidhu almost seems to be gearing up to be on his own. He is building his own USP ahead of the polls,” said Dr Kanwalpreet Kaur, a Chandigarh-based political scientist.
“Now he does not want to be seen to have anything to do with the Amarinder government and the cabinet that he was so desperate to join barely a month ago,” she added.
Sidhu had resigned from Amarinder’s cabinet in protest in July 2019 after key portfolios were taken from him. Amarinder had earlier blamed him for what he alleged was the Congress’ poor performance in urban areas during the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Since then, Sidhu has been lying low, barring a few public appearances in support of the farmers when the agitation was at its peak some months ago.
Congress Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat tried to build bridges between Amarinder and Sidhu. Following a host of meetings between the two, it was speculated that Sidhu would be reinstated in the cabinet with the same portfolios.
However, on 13 April, Sidhu made it clear that he intended to continue with his criticism of the chief minister when he issued a video message from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, a village in Faridkot where the first instance of Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege was reported in 2015.
On 18 April, he held a press conference in Patiala — Amarinder’s home constituency — and said the government has not fulfilled its key promises, to end the drug mafia in the state, and deliver justice in the desecration cases.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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