Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s acceptance of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s resignation from state cabinet has raised a question about the cricketer-turned-politician’s future in the Congress, though leaders hope he would continue in the party.
Sidhu’s next move remains a mystery as he has not said anything since making public his resignation on Twitter on July 14. A day later, he sent his resignation to the chief minister.
But Singh was indisposed since his arrival from Delhi on July 17 and saw and accepted Sidhu’s one-line resignation letter Saturday morning, an official spokesperson said.
Punjab Congress leaders described his decision to quit the cabinet as a “mistake” but they hoped the former cricketer would continue to be a part of the Congress.
“Sidhu sahib resigned on his own. The CM wanted him to assume duties and work as power minister. He was not ousted (from cabinet) and he resigned himself,” Punjab Congress leader and MLA Raj Kumar Verka said.
Asked whether Sidhu could leave Congress, Verka said, “I feel he will continue with the party.”
The chief minister accepted Sidhu’s resignation at a time when there was a speculation the Congress high-command intervened to resolve the issue between the leaders. Sidhu was also expected to meet Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi, though there was no confirmation.
Sidhu never hid his proximity to Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
But ever since Sidhu was divested of his portfolio of Local Government, Tourism and Cultural Affairs last month, he has maintained a distance from the media.
On Saturday too, Sidhu was unavailable and did not react to the acceptance of his resignation.
Verka said Sidhu should have assumed the charge as power and new and renewable energy minister “the way other ministers took charge of their new portfolios”.
“He made a mistake. He should not have resigned,” the MLA said.
Punjab minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot also hoped that Sidhu would continue to remain with Congress. “He is a Congressman and will remain Congressman,” said Dharamsot.
Lok Insaaf Party chief Simarjeet Singh Bains had invited Sidhu to join his party, saying the party would project Sidhu as its chief ministerial candidate for 2022 assembly polls.
The tension between Singh and Sidhu had been simmering for almost an year and become public after the chief minister disapproved Sidhu hugging the Pakistani army chief during a visit there last year. The chief minister had asked Sidhu to reconsider his decision to visit Pakistan for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor.
Later, after his portfolio was changed, an upset Sidhu had said his department was being “singled out publicly”.
The chief minister then blamed Sidhu for “inept handling” of the Local Government Department, saying it resulted in Congress’s “poor performance” in urban areas in Lok Sabha polls.
Sidhu also did not find support in the cabinet whenever he suggested policy reforms.
The tussle between both the leaders for one-upmanship continued.
Singh had taken umbrage at Sidhu’s “friendly match” jibe at him during electioneering in Bathinda on May 17 and that prompted him to say, “Perhaps he (Sidhu) is ambitious and wants to be the chief minister. Sidhu apparently referred to Singh having a secret pact with the Akalis.
Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur had blamed the chief minister for denial of party ticket to her for Chandigarh seat.