Breaking his silence after a week, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday said he resigned as a Rajya Sabha member since his party, the BJP, asked him to “not even look in the direction of Punjab, and to stay away” from the state.
Speaking to the media outside his residence at the Commonwealth Games Village in the national capital, Sidhu, however, avoided a direct answer when asked about rumours that he would join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as its chief minister candidate for the Punjab Assembly elections, scheduled early next year. He also side-stepped questions on quitting BJP.
“The nation (read Punjab) is the biggest religion of all. How can I leave my roots and my nation? How can I leave my people who have made me win (Lok Sabha) elections in the last 10 years,” asked Sidhu, making clear his displeasure against the BJP.
The former India cricket opener, who represented Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency between 2004 and 2014, claimed that the party had asked him to stay away from Punjab, which was “impossible” for him to obey.
“Even the birds come back to their nests in the evening. How can I leave my nation? No party in this world is above Punjab. I am ready to bear the loss,” said Sidhu, known for his dramatic speech and style of presentation as a cricket commentator and TV show host.
Without naming Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Sidhu hinted that the party did not give him a ticket from Amritsar seat in 2014, expecting it was a safe seat for Jaitley to win. In the event, Jaitley, who has never won a political election, lost to Congress’s Capt Amarinder Singh, a former Punjab chief minister.
“Jab Modi-sahab ki wave aayi toh virodhi to doobe, Sidhu ko bhi dubo dia (When the Modi wave came, BJP’s opponents were swept away, and it made Sidhu drown as well),” he said.
Instead of Amritsar, Navjot Singh Sidhu claimed, he was given the choice to stand from either Kurukshetra, in Haryana, or West Delhi. “I did not leave my roots. I opted not to contest. (But) even today you (BJP) ask me to leave Punjab. What is my fault,” he asked.
Stating that he had contested his first election from Amritsar on the request of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former RS member said, “This is not about personal gain or loss. Had this (shuffling him out before the polls) happened for the first time, even then it was unacceptable. But this has been done to me three or four times.”