New Delhi: Breaking his silence, Navjot Singh Sidhu has said he quit the Rajya Sabha as the BJP had asked him to stay away from Punjab. He also asserted that he would choose the state “hundred times” above any party or family, but kept everyone guessing on his future course of action.
The cricketer-turned-politician, who made clear his displeasure with the BJP, parried queries on whether he would join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), saying he will stand wherever the interests of Punjab are served.
Sidhu alleged that he was told to keep away from Punjab to “serve selfish interests,” indicating that the BJP was acting under pressure from ally Shiromani Akali Dal, with whom Sidhu has had a long spell of hostility.
Targeting the BJP, Sidhu said he delivered the prestigious Amritsar seat to the party in adverse circumstances but was “drowned in the Modi wave” in 2014, when he was asked to shift from the constituency.
“It happened three or four times,” he said, adding that it cannot be “tolerated” even once as “no party in the world is bigger than Punjab for me.”
“Navjot Singh Sidhu had won four elections but when there was a wave in favour of Modi sahab, then Sidhu was drowned along with rivals. I was told you cannot fight from Amritsar. You fight from Kurukshetra, you fight from West Delhi. I did not leave my roots then nor did I care about profit and loss,” he added.
Asked if he will join the AAP or if wants to be the chief ministerial candidate for the Punjab assembly elections due early next year, Sidhu said, “You will find Sidhu standing wherever the interests of Punjab are served. I have said what I had to. Navjot Singh Sidhu always wanted to serve Punjab and Amritsar.”
“I said I will not fight. I have no wish for any post but I will not break the trust of those who made me an MP from Amritsar and have the highest honour in 21 generations. Now you tell me that I should leave Punjab. Tell me what is my sin,” he said, speaking about his disenchantment with the BJP.
“I quit the Rajya Sabha because I was told that I cannot look at Punjab and will have to keep away from it. No dharma is bigger than Punjab for me,” he said, calling the state his nation from which he cannot keep away.
Sidhu spoke at length over his political innings in the BJP. He said he contested in 2004 on the request of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and won the Amritsar seat with a margin of over 1 lakh votes, adding that he won it twice more, including in 2009 when he was the only party MP among the 50-51 seats in north India.
“When storms were blowing, then Navjot Singh Sidhu was sent… Now when there was a wave in support of Modi sahab, I was drowned along with rivals,” he lamented.
Top party leader Arun Jaitley had contested from Amritsar in 2014 but lost to senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh.
Sidhu, a cricket commentator and fixture at comedy shows on the television, recited a number of couplets and poems to underscore how he was treated as a “sinner” by the party without being told the reason.
He also said he also worked for the victory for his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu from a difficult seat. Although he has maintained silence over his sour relations with the Akali Dal, his wife has been more vocal and has expressed their anger with that party and the BJP’s cold response.
The Akali Dal is currently in power with the BJP as a junior ally in Punjab, which goes to the polls early next year. Ahead of the elections, the AAP has emerged as a strong force in the state and Sidhu’s departure from the BJP is being seen as a major setback for the saffron party. However, the BJP has maintained that Sidhu has not quit the party yet.