Two months after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh accepted his resignation from the Cabinet, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has remained missing from the political scene.
Amarinder had accepted his resignation on July 20. A day later Sidhu, in a cryptic tweet, said, “Have vacated the ministerial bungalow, handed it over to the Punjab government”.
Ever since then he has remained incommunicado, staying away from party activities and the media. For a person who was first to announce that Islamabad would grant access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Sidhu has maintained a radio silence on the issue even as the corridor that will connect the shrine established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur nears completion.
In fact, a political row had erupted Sidhu, then a minister in the Punjab government, claimed that he got the information from Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa when he had crossed the border to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as Prime Minister.
Sidhu had then said that he attended the event as a friend, not a politician. “Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told me they had been considering to open Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. He hugged me and said ‘We want peace’. So, let’s swim in a blue ocean and shun red ocean. It’s my dream,” he had then said.
Sources close to the Congress MLA from Amritsar East said he was mostly spending time at his residence in Amritsar and meeting supporters off and on. He had taken round of his constituency twice in the past, got a nullah covered and sanctioned Rs 5 lakh to a government school in Verka.
Otherwise active on social media, Sidhu has not tweeted or posted anything on his Facebook after July 21.
The 55-year-old leader has also maintained a distance from the party activities. He stayed away from various party meetings including a recent one chaired by the state Congress chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar. Congress sources said he was not responding to any phone calls. Messages about the party meetings were conveyed to his aides but he did not turn up, said a Congress source.
A party leader said he was not responding to any calls by party MLAs. “We tried to meet him after his resignation. But he did not answer any call. We tried to reach out to him at his residence also but did not get a positive response,” said a Congress MLA.
Sidhu was not available for comments. A close aide told the Sunday Express that he was not meeting or talking to the media. He said he could not tell what was keeping Sidhu busy.
Speculation is however rife in the state that Sidhu was in touch with a few vociferous MLAs of other parties and they were looking at chalking their future together.
After quitting BJP ahead of the 2017 Assembly election, Sidhu had floated a political outfit, Punjab Manch, with close friend aide and sitting Congress MLA Pargat Singh and Lok Insaf Party leaders Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains. The outfit could not gather much weight and he later joined Congress.
Sidhu remained at loggerheads with Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh with the tension between the two coming out in the public.
Last year, Sidhu had said in Hyderabad, “(then Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi is my captain…Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Amarinder) also.”
Amarinder had also disapproved of Sidhu hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to Pakistan.
Sidhu was stripped off key portfolios – Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments – and allotted the power and new and renewable energy portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle on June 6, spurring Sidhu to rebel and eventually quit the Cabinet seat.
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