There was relief in the Punjab Congress after cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the party days before the February 4 Assembly elections, was not given the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the new government.
However, if Sidhu himself was disappointed, he showed no sign of it.
It was widely believed that Sidhu had been promised the post when he joined the party after meeting of the Congress high command. Asked why he was not named, Sidhu told The Indian Express: “I have no clue. It is up to Captain Sahib and Rahul Gandhi.” He made no other comment.
Congress leaders were elated not only because Sidhu did not get to become deputy CM, but also because he was placed third in the Cabinet pecking order. His portfolio of Local Government is also seen as “low-profile”.
After being sworn in, Sidhu touched Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s feet on the stage, and shook hands with AICC Vice-President Rahul Gandhi who was seated in the audience along with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders.
He was all smiles as he left the venue with his namesake wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who attended the swearing-in ceremony.
Before joining the Congress, Sidhu had said he would join the party only minus Amarinder, who he accused of having a ‘nexus’ with the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. The state leadership was unaware that Sidhu and the party high command were in touch over his joining the party.
Sources in Congress said Sidhu was promised Deputy Chief Minister’s post by senior leaders in Delhi. Though he joined the party late, he was billed as a star campaigner. The AICC even provided him with a chopper to campaign across the state. Other than him, it was only Amarinder who was given a helicopter by the AICC. But the importance given to Sidhu did not go down well in the Punjab Congress.
Sources in the party said with the unassailable victory of the party in Punjab, credited more to Amarinder, the CM was able to convince the high command that he did not need a deputy to deliver. The state unit, backed by party general secretary in-charge Asha Kumari, is learnt to have conveyed to the high command that Deputy CM was a “non-constitutional” post.