Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu Monday said neither the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, nor the state Congress president, Sunil Kumar Jakhar, have asked him to campaign for the 13 party leaders contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the state.
“Neither Captain Sahib, nor the PPCC chief or (party’s Punjab affairs in-charge in-charge) Asha Kumari have called me to campaign (in Punjab),” Sidhu told The Indian Express over phone from Delhi said.
“Bin bulaye to mai kahin nahi jata. Bagair bulaye sirf Darbar Sahib jata hu (I do not go anywhere uninvited. I only go to the Golden Temple uninvited,” the 55-year-old cricketer-turned politician said.
Sidhu said he has read Asha Kumari’s statement that he was not needed in Punjab. “Captain sahib hain Punjab mein. Unke experience aur charisma ne sari seats jita deni hain (Capt Amarinder Singh is there in Punjab. His experience and charisma will help Congress win all the 13 seats),” Sidhu said.
Asha Kumari, however, claimed that she had sent a mail to the AICC urging it to send Sidhu among other star campaigners to campaign for candidates in Punjab. “To put the record straight, we asked for Mr Sidhu among others. I have sent two reminders also after that. I understand our election is in the last phase. Hence, most of the star campaigners would be coming from May 10 onwards (after canvassing in Haryana is over). This is what the candidates also want,” Asha Kumari told The Indian Express.
She added that she can’t invite Sidhu on her own and had to write to the AICC as “he is a national star campaigner and his schedule is finalised by them”.
Meanwhile, in a veiled dig at Amarinder, Sidhu said, “Sawari apne samaan ki khud zimmevar hai (The leader has to take the responsibility). A Captain has to take all the bouquets and brickbats. Nobody blames the player. Photo to Rahul ji ki lagti hai [ (If the Congress wins or loses), party president Rahul Gandhi’s photos are splashed)”.
Though he didn’t elaborate, but his comment seemed to have come in apparent reference to the CM’s announcement that ministers in Punjab will be dropped from the cabinet and legislators will not be given tickets in the next assembly polls if they fail to ensure victory of party candidates in their constituencies during the Lok Sabha election. Amarinder had issued the warning despite the ruling party exuding confidence that it would win all the seats in Punjab. The CM had said that the decision to fix accountability was taken by the Congress high command, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
It is a known fact in Punjab’s political circles that Sidhu and Amarinder share a frosty relationship at best. While announcing the names of the party’s star campaigners in March, Asha Kumari had said that “Sidhu has a way of connecting with the audience and has campaign value”. The Punjab minister had aggressively campaigned for the party in the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh assembly elections for 17 days, injuring his vocal cords in the process. He was advised by doctors to take complete rest.
Asked again why he wasn’t campaigning in his home state, Sidhu said, “I do not want to make any comments. I accept their decision with folded hands”. That he is bitter about it came to fore as he added that nobody was consulted while giving the party tickets (in Punjab) and nobody was involved in other party decisions. Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu was denied the ticket to contest Lok Sabha polls from Chandigarh. The state unit wanted her to contest from Bathinda against Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal but the couple had refused.
The Punjab minister said he will go to Haryana and campaign for Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kumari Selja in the coming days. “My schedule is tight till May 16. I have to address about 60 rallies in the coming days in Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and UP,” he added.
Stating that he has already hurt his vocal cords again with extensive campaigning in at least 70 rallies, he said, “It is on the verge of bleeding. But I will go on. These things cannot stop me. I am being provided with good mikes so that I do not tire my throat.” He said he would address one more rally for party’s Chandigarh candidate Pawan Bansal as he had invited him again. “I will go to Himachal Pradesh as their general secretary incharge Gurkirat Singh Kotli, (who is also Punjab MLA), has called me. Other states are ringing up 10 times a day”.
Asha Kumari, meanwhile, added that they have requested AICC chief Rahul Gandhi, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, party’s Patna Sabhi candidate Shatrughan Sinha and actor and party’s Mumbai North candidate Urmila Matondkar to campaign in Punjab. “While Rahul ji will address a rally in Chandigarh, we have sought time for Anandpur Sahib also as it place is closer to Chandigarh. We also want him in Bathinda. We would like Priyanka ji to campaign in Gurdaspur where Sunil Jakhar is taking on BJP’a Sunny Deol. Matondkar will be great for Gurdaspur and Sinha can address rallies in Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh. The dates are yet to be finalised,” she added.