After lying low for weeks following a change in his portfolio in the Punjab cabinet, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is meeting his supporters again, telling them he remains with the Congress. Sidhu met supporters, including local municipal councillors, at his home here on Tuesday.
“It was made clear at the meeting that he has resigned from the Punjab cabinet but certainly not from the party. He motivated everybody at the meeting to work hard for the party”, said Monika Sharma, who was among the municipal councillors there.
The Congress MLA said he has no intention of quitting the party in the future as well, according to the local leader.
His relations with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh were strained and he was stripped of his Local Government and Tourism portfolios in a reshuffle on June 6. Sidhu never took charge of his new Power portfolio and also kept away from the media.
The chief minister accepted his resignation from the state cabinet on Saturday.
Monika Sharma said Sidhu urged everyone to work for boosting development, particularly in his Amritsar East assembly constituency.
The MLA assured that he will meet the municipal councillors on a day-to-day basis on development projects and problems related to the constituency.
“Sidhu also informed us that he would visit his constituency on a daily basis to learn the ground reality, besides interacting with the common voters to sort out their grievances,” Sharma said.
“About the present situation, Sidhu said everybody has to face volatile circumstances in life,” said Gareesh Kumar, a Sidhu supporter and Monika Sharma’s husband.
The former minister reportedly said his resignation didn’t matter as he has quit earlier from the Rajya Sabha as well.
But some councillors, considered close to the politician, stayed away from the meeting. Others didn’t want to talk about their interaction with him.
His refusal to assume charge of the power department for more than a month had embarrassed the Congress with opposition parties attacking the Amarinder Singh government over the issue.
With the paddy sowing season on and a rising demand for power in summer, Amarinder Singh monitored the department’s functioning in his absence.
On July 14, Sidhu made public on Twitter his June 10 resignation letter addressed to then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, sent just four days after his portfolio was changed.
Sidhu sent a resignation letter to Amarinder Singh’s official residence in Chandigarh the next day, while the chief minister was away in Delhi.
Earlier, Amarinder Singh said if Sidhu didn’t want to do his job, “there is nothing I can do about it”.
The tension between Sidhu and the chief minister came out in the open in May when Amarinder Singh blamed him for the “inept handling” of the Local Government Department, claiming it resulted in the “poor performance” of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.
The former cricketer, however, said his department was being “singled out publicly” and asserted that he could not be taken for granted as he has been a “performer throughout”.
He approached Rahul Gandhi on June 9 and “apprised him of the situation”.
During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Sidhu had cornered the Amarinder-Singh led government over the desecration of religious texts in 2015, asking why no FIR was lodged against the Badals who ran the government then.
“If he is a real Congressman, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances, instead of just ahead of the voting in Punjab,” Amarinder Singh had then said.
“He is harming the party with such irresponsible actions. It is not his election but that of the entire Congress,” he said.
Last year in Hyderabad, Sidhu said, “Rahul Gandhi is my captain… Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Amarinder Singh) also.”
Amarinder Singh had also disapproved of Sidhu hugging Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to the neighbouring country.