With Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu approaching the Supreme Court to seek a week’s time to surrender in the 1988 road rage case citing medical issues, the former cricketer received support and criticism in equal measure.
Meanwhile, Sidhu surrendered before a Patiala court on Friday.
While party MLA from Kapurthala, Rana Gurjeet Singh, said it was time for Sidhu to do pashchatap (penance) and introspection, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Parambans Singh Romana, in a tweet, took a swipe at Sidhu saying his health was all good when he rode an elephant in Patiala on Thursday to lodge a protest, but his “heart is now shaky when it came to surrender”. Referring to Sidhu’s tweet on Thursday, Romana further wrote, “Where is the ‘submit to majesty of law’.”
Earlier in the day, Sidhu’s supporters – who had been moving with him across the state in recent months – reached his Patiala residence in a gesture of solidarity. They included former party legislators Ashwani Sekhri, Navtej Singh Cheema, Hardial Singh Kamboj, Pirmal Singh and others.
Though Sidhu was convicted for culpable homicide and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case in which a 65-year-old lost his life, the apex court set aside the verdict on May 15, 2018 and held him guilty only under section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and fined him Rs 1,000. The family of the deceased, Gurnam Singh, then sought a review and enhancement of punishment.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court enhanced Sidhu’s sentence in the 1988 road rage case and awarded him a year’s rigorous imprisonment in addition to the Rs 1,000 fine imposed in May 2018.
Rana Gurjeet told The Indian Express, “He (Sidhu) has the right to do that (approach the Supreme Court to seek time to surrender). But, he has been declared guilty. He should now opt for pashchatap and introspection. He should recite God’s name in prison. I wish he gets relief, but a man died after he dealt a fist blow to him. The victim’s family struggled for 34 years. Should we have role models like Sidhu who beat a man to death? He was in the prime of his youth at that time. While today we call such people as gangsters, earlier there were people like Navjot Sidhu. What is the difference? If parties can accept Sidhu, they should also accept gangsters.”
“I wonder if people like Sidhu deserve to head a party? As PCC president, he only campaigned in one out of 117 Assembly constituencies and that was his own constituency. He was given positions that he never deserved. Had he been a big leader, he would have at least won his own seat. He always spoke against (former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh) Channi. It was Channi’s magnanimity that he went on to campaign for Sidhu on being asked to,” the Congress leader said.
“Sidhu’s remarks pierce the chest like an arrow. His tongue acts like an AK-47 when he speaks. He does not know whom he is hitting and at times he attacks his own people. The damage he does is irreparable,” said Rana Gurjeet, whose elevation as minister in the then Channi-led government was opposed by Sidhu. Also, Sidhu had backed Navtej Singh Cheema as Congress nominee from Sultanpur Lodhi, the Assembly seat won by Rana Gurjeet’s son Rana Inder Partap Singh who contested as an Independent. Rana said Sidhu would have become “a big leader” had he managed to “control his tongue”.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring tweeted: “With due respect for the verdict of the Hon Supreme Court, I stand by my senior colleague @sherryontopp ji and his family at this difficult hour.”
Congress Legislature Party leader and Qadian MLA Partap Singh Bajwa too expressed his support for Sidhu. “The INC bows before the verdict of the Hon. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Punjab Congress and I will stand firmly behind @sherryontopp and his family in this difficult time,” he tweeted.
On Thursday, while responding to The Indian Express, Congress MLA from Dera Baba Nanak and former deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “It is no longer tough to serve a jail term. We have effected a number of initiatives in jails to make these reformatory in true sense of the word.”
Randhawa also said that “On February 14, when Rahul Gandhi visited Gurdaspur, I told him that Sidhu and Sunil Jakhar must be expelled from the party for their anti-party activities. Unfortunately, no action was taken and the Congress ended up being left nowhere in the state.”