The rift between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu widened further on Tuesday, with Mr Singh challenging his former minister to stand against him from Patiala – the Assembly constituency that has voted for him in four consecutive state elections.
The Chief Minister told Mr Sidhu he would be defeated as comprehensively as the BJP’s General (retd) JJ Singh, who contested the 2017 election but finished with over 60,000 votes behind Mr Singh and with just 11.1 per cent of the votes, forfeited his security deposit as a result.
“I don’t know where he will go or which party he will join. Akali Dal is upset with him and BJP won’t accept him… so most likely AAP. If he wants to contest against me from Patiala he will meet the same fate as General JJ Singh, who lost his security deposits,” Mr Singh said in an interview to a private channel.
Punjab will vote for a new government next year.
Mr Sidhu, a former international cricketer with a colourful turn of phrase, hit back with a tweet.
“Efforts to derail Punjab’s conscience will fail… My soul is Punjab and Punjab’s soul is Guru Granth Sahibji… Our fight is for justice and punishing the guilty… an Assembly seat is not worth (discussing) in the same breath!!”
Efforts to derail Punjab’s conscience will fail … My Soul is Punjab and Punjab’s Soul is Guru Granth Sahib Ji … Our fight is for Justice & punishing the guilty, an assembly seat is not even worth discussion in the same breathe !!
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) April 27, 2021
Mr Sidhu, who resigned from the cabinet in July 2019, after a month-long sulk triggered by a row over his contributions (or lack of) to the Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha election.
The two have had several bitter exchanges since then.
This week’s decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to quash the findings of a probe into the 2015 Kotkapura firing case – when police allegedly opened fire on people protesting the sacrilegious treatment of the Guru Granth Sahib – has provided more fuel to the fire.
Mr Sidhu has accused Mr Singh, who faces criticism from both the opposition and from within his own party, of colluding with the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was in power at the time.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and minister Sukjhinder Randhawa, upset over the state failing to take the SIT probe to what they felt was its logical conclusion, have offered to resign.
The Chief Minister, however, has rejected their resignation letters.
The Congress central leadership had tasked state-in-charge Harish Rawat with resolving this long-standing dispute between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
But the Chief Minister’s latest comment will only make his job harder.