PUNJAB’S LOCAL Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has stayed away from campaigning in Himachal Pradesh. Despite being on the list of ‘star campaigner’ Congress leaders in the hill state and a number of party candidates requesting for his time to campaign for them, Sidhu did not campaign in the state for anyone. The campaigning in the state ended Tuesday.
Sources in Congress claimed that Sidhu, who had joined the party ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab, was given a “raw deal.” He was promised Deputy Chief Minister’s post but was denied. Later, his wife and former MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu was in line to become a chairperson in a health-related corporation as she took premature retirement as a doctor. But despite the government being in Punjab for seven months, she was not given a plum political post, the sources claimed.
It had been conveyed to Sidhu that he would be required in Himachal for campaigning. A senior party leader from Delhi is also learnt to have called him up to convey that he was assigned in the state. Sidhu, a known crowd-puller, had addressed 47 rallies in nine days ahead of Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election was BJP’s star campaigner in 2012 Assembly election in the hill state and had vociferously campaigned for them.
Candidates in Himachal recall how Sidhu was a “favourite campaigner” during the previous election. Parveen Kumar, a BJP rebel and senior party leader Shanta Kumar’s protege, contesting from Palampur told the Indian Express that Sidhu was the flavour of the BJP campaign in Himachal at the time.
While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, PPCC president Sunil Kumar Jakhar and Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal campaigned in Himachal, Sidhu did not. A candidate from Kangra district said they were looking forward to get Sidhu to campaign for them, “I sent out a request many times. People were waiting that Sidhu is now in Congress and he would come and address them. But we are disappointed.”
Another candidate said while Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was shouldering the party’s campaign in the state with AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi concentrating on Gujarat, Sidhu pitching in would have helped the party in the hill state. “But we cannot do anything now. We waited till the last day,” he said.
Asked about the matter, Sidhu said, “I was busy with delimitation process being undertaken by my department ahead of municipal elections. Even today 17 MLAs are seated with me. Had I gone to Himachal, all this work would have suffered. Moreover, our CM is there. Haathi ke paanv mein sabka paanv,” he said.
On his being ‘disappointed’ and his wife waiting for a post, Sidhu said, “It is absolute nonsense.” He said he did not shy away from Gurdaspur where he addressed 47 rallies in nine days and 11 in Dera Baba Nanak segment where we won with a margin of over 44,000 votes. I am a Punjabi. My roots are here. I am not a Himachali that I am needed there.”