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Aseem Bassi, Hindustan Times
Amritsar, September 21, 2013
An escalating verbal spat between Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and the Badal government has finally forced BJP president Rajnath Singh to step in to defuse the tension triggered by Sidhu's politically-damaging charge against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for diverting the funds meant for development of the holy city.


Rajnath, who summoned Sidhu to New Delhi on Saturday, has set up a meeting with Badal in Chandigarh on September 23 to defuse the crisis that threatens to strain the ties between the Shiromani Akali Dal and the saffron party, the ruling coalition partners in Punjab. Also attending the Monday meeting will be Sidhu and top Punjab BJP leaders.

During his meeting with Rajnath, Sidhu handed him over a letter that touched various issues. In the letter, starting with the SAD-BJP tussle during the MC polls, Sidhu listed his grouses against the Badal government. These included "scuttled" projects in Amritsar, boycott of his CPS wife by certain Akali leaders, his being ignored from the meetings and the projects being inaugurated without even sending him invites.

Rajnath had reportedly called Sidhu after chief minister Parkash Singh Badal met him and expressed his displeasure at the issue. According to sources, Rajnath is keen to defuse the confrontation at the earliest as the Lok sabha polls are around the corner.

Talking to HT, Sidhu said, "Rajnath Singh is a much respected leader for me and wherever he takes me I am ready. Whoever I meet, my priority remains Amritsar. I will be going there as an ambassador of the 15 lakh people of Amritsar and will talk about them."

But the firebrand BJP MP seemed unrelenting on his demand for return of the Amritsar Improvement Trust funds that, he claims, were diverted to other municipalities at the behest of the Badals. "My priority will be that justice is done. Start the projects and divert back the money to Amritsar projects."

Since his return to Amritsar on September 4 after almost a year-long absence, Sidhu has been making shrill noises alleging discrimination against his constituency. He has specifically been targeting the Badals. A day after deputy chief minister announced Rs. 2000-crore development projects for Amritsar without inviting Sidhu to the function, the cricketer-turned-politician hit back, trashing the Sukhbir package as "lollipop".

Later, Sidhu upped the ante, demanding a judicial probe into the "diversion" of funds from the Amritsar Improvement Trust. Two days ago, he met Punjab BJP Affairs in-charge Shanta Kumar who, however, failed to broker peace between Sidhu and Akali top brass who has reportedly been miffed at Amritsar MP's "indiscretion" of taking potshots at senior Badal.