The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) finally came out with a stern reaction over BJP's former Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu heaping "insults" at the coalition partner, and on Monday lodged a complaint with state BJP president Kamal Sharma for action against the cricketer-turned-politician. So far, the BJP seems to agree with the SAD that Sidhu was out of line.
Sidhu, who remained unavailable for comment, came under attack in Amritsar too, where revenue minister and SAD's firebrand leader Bikram Singh Majithia broke his silence and dubbed Sidhu's outbursts as "signs of frustration". Also in Amritsar, BJP's national general secretary and Union health minister JP Nadda termed the alliance "smooth" and said that Sidhu's comments were "not the party's view": "Whatever Sidhu has said can be his personal view. I do not agree with him."
In his latest shot, at a religious function in Ludhiana on Sunday, Sidhu had termed the rulers of Punjab as "dusht" (evil), and said the time had come when people should free the state from their clutches. While Sidhu had already been alleging discrimination with Amritsar when he was MP, ever since he was replaced by senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley as Lok Sabha candidate from Amritsar allegedly at the behest of Akalis, he has gone ballistic. He was particularly severe during the Haryana poll campaign as he dubbed the SAD - which was partnering BJP's rival Indian National Lok Dal - as "backstabbers" and obliquely blamed it for illegal sand mining and drug trade in Punjab. The SAD had avoided reacting then.
On Monday, SAD spokesman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, who is also the state's education minister, spoke to state BJP president Kamal Sharma and, referring to the remarks made by Sidhu as "intolerable", has asked the BJP to "tame" him.
When asked about the SAD complaint, Kamal told HT over phone: "In case he (Navjot Sidhu) has some differences with someone in the SAD, there are other ways to settle them. Such utterances don't help."
Dr Cheema reportedly told Kamal that Sidhu's actions were "against the spirit of coalition dharma". He also expressed surprise that even when the BJP high command in Delhi as well as in the state had clarified that "there is no issue between SAD and BJP", there should be no reason for Sidhu to speak against the SAD leadership.
Kamal said he could understand the feelings of the coalition partner: "I will take up the matter with my high command for a final decision." (With inputs from Amritsar)
Sidhu's sizzling shots
BJP firebrand Navjot Singh Sidhu was ballistic against SAD in Haryana campaign, where he called Akalis 'backstabbers'. The former cricketer's latest salvos were at a religious function in Ludhiana on Sunday:
*Referring to rulers of Punjab as "dusht" (evil), Sidhu said time had come when people should free the state from their clutches.
*Mocking SAD slogan "Raaj nahi, Sewa" (servants, not rulers), Sidhu said: "Sewa taan sirf 10% hi hai. Baaki 90% taan eh mewa hi khaa rahe hai (Only 10% is service while the remaining 90% accounts for leaders making moolah)."
*"Mahabharat ch Arjun kalla hi Pandavan de naal ladya si; te hun main vi kalla haan. Lekin ajj mein Bhagwan Jagannath di yatra te bigul waja reha haan, es ummeed naal ki tusi mera saath deyoge…" (In the Mahabharat, Arjun fought alone for Pandavas. I too am alone today, but hope you will support me)," he told the gathering.
Party asked Sidhu to blast SAD?
Even as state BJP president Kamal Sharma agreed with the SAD complaint that Navjot Singh Sidhu should not have spoken against the ally, it needs mention that Sidhu's wife, BJP MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Dr Navjot kaur Sidhu, recently said that whatever her husband had said during the Haryana poll campaign was "as per the brief given to him by the party high command".
Kamal denied this and even flayed Dr Sidhu. Nadda also said in Amritsar that Sidhu's statements were "not the party's view".