'Sidelined' Sidhu no longer at home in BJP

Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu's "political suffocation" and preference for the television world, as revealed by his MLA wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu in a Facebook post, is certainly not an overnight occurrence.

The former cricketer, who began his political innings with a bang in 2004 by defeating Congress stalwart RL Bhatia by more than 1 lakh votes, has had run-ins with leaders of his own party (BJP) as well as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in recent years.

His differences with BJP colleagues took a heavy toll on his victory margin in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when he won by just 6,000-odd votes. He trailed in almost all BJP-ruled urban assembly segments, but managed a good lead in rural constituencies, thanks to SAD support.
Sidhu kicked up a row when he objected to the appointment of BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhinna as chairman of the Amritsar Improvement Trust in 2009. He even moved out of the city and vowed to return only if Chhinna was removed from the post. The party eventually relented, defusing a crisis situation.

However, the infighting went from bad to worse, with Sidhu parting ways with his one-time close friend Anil Joshi, currently the industry minister.

The MP's differences with the SAD cropped up over seat-sharing in the 2012 Amritsar municipal corporation polls. This led to a war of words with cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Several Sidhu confidants lost in the MC polls; the MP even indicated that some Akali leaders worked against BJP nominees.

In October 2012, Sidhu packed his bags to take part in the reality TV show Bigg Boss. Since then, he has kept himself busy with various cricket shows, largely staying away from active politics.

Sidhu campaigned hard for chief minister Narendra Modi in the Gujarat assembly elections late last year, but courted controversy for his remarks against Gujarat Parivartan Party president Keshubhai Patel.

The BJP's star campaigner suffered a major jolt recently when he was not given any position in new party president Rajnath Singh's team after serving as a national secretary during Nitin Gadkari's tenure. In another setback to Sidhu, former cabinet minister and senior party leader Laxmi Kanta Chawla was elevated as national vice-president. Later, he was ignored by the state BJP when new teams for Punjab and Amritsar district were chosen.

All these developments triggered an outburst on Facebook by his wife, Amritsar (East) MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu. She posted that her husband had moved to the TV world, "a profession where he is respected", because he was not given honour within the party.

She claimed that various projects, including the 'Go Green Go Clean' campaign, solid waste management, flights' revival at the Amritsar airport, special economic zone, and extended rail freight corridor till Amritsar were taken up by him, but people in the state and central leadership scuttled them all. She added that it was up to the BJP to restore his honour.


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