Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu Thursday hit back at Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for singling him out for the Congress’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls instead of the ruling party taking the collective responsibility.
Stating that he was repeatedly being targetted by “a group of eight or nine people”, Sidhu said that he had never heard that in a government only one person is accused of poor performance. “But if a finger has been raised, then he (CM) is the ‘Maa-badaulat’ (the royal way of addressing self in third person with literal meaning that ‘everything here is because of me’). I cannot say anything”.
Sidhu made the comments while interacting with media persons at his residence here. He was reacting to the Amarinder statement that Sidhu had not been able to handle his department (urban development) properly and that Congress had put up a below average performance in urban areas because of this. The CM had also said that Sidhu’s non-performance would be taken up with the party high command after the election results.
Sidhu said that till today he had not spoken a word against the Congress leaders and ministers who have blamed him party candidate’s defeat in Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, for Amritsar rail tragedy, his court case or Kartarpur Sahib corridor. “But this time things have gone too far,” he said. “Instead of collective responsibility, out of 50 departments only my department has been commented upon,” he said.
Referring to the local bodies department that he heads as a “rudderless ship” and “headless chicken”, Sidhus aid that it was he who put together a vision for the performance of the department because of which the Congress had done well in urban areas in the eight constituencies in which it won.
“CM appointed Mayors in my department and I was not even consulted. Most welcome. He is ‘Maa-badaulat. He can do anything. We cannot question him. We have to do what he says. Every IAS officer is also appointed by him. He could have just called me and questioned me on anything. I would have given a reply,” Sidhu said.
Referring to the loss in Bathinda, the Minister said that the Congress couldn’t win the Bathinda seat in the last 40 years. “Captain saab also fought and lost from Lambi by 25,000 votes. His son Raninder lost in Bathinda by 1.20 lakh votes. Now Sidhu is responsible,” he said.
Referring to his performance for the party in the assembly polls and securing seats for it, Sidhu said, “70 times (poll strategist) Prashant Kishore came to my house. The CM said ‘he (Sidhu) will be like my son’. He would know if I am his son or not. He is elder to me I have never spoken against him,” he said.
When asked if his comments in Bathinda had attracted the ire of Amarinder, he said that he stood by whatever he said but he had not named anybody. “I said those who stabbed Congress in the back should be taught a lesson. What wrong did I say? I still stand by my statement. If I ever go back even an inch from my stand, then I am not Navjot Sidhu,” he said.
On his achievements as a minister, Sidhu said that his department did not have even have five paise when he took over. “There was no vision or accountability in the department. (Now), works worth Rs 6000 crore are in the pipleine. There are unlimited funds under AMRUT scheme, for sewerage plants and fitting of water pipes. Are these cities not part of the places where Congress has won? Are Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana not part of them,” he asked.
When asked if he was expecting a change in portfolio and if Amarinder had lost confidence in him, Sidhu said that the CM will decide. “He is the elder one. I will also decide and take a decision too. It is upto him. If I have made any mistake, I am ready to accept it 100 times. I have explained the working of my department to people of Punjab. At present this is all I want to say,” he said.
Replying to question whether he will quit the party if no action was taken against the guilty in the cases of sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing, Sidhu said this was a question of ‘if’. “Sitaron ke aage jahaan aur bhi hain, abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain,” he said.