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Sidhus hurting own team

chandigarh Updated: Jun 02, 2013 23:55 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Arun Jaitley

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had stars in its eyes when it inducted this couple and now it has only dust.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer turned commentator who is in Team Saffron since 2004, hasn't returned to his parliamentary home turf, Amritsar, in almost a year. "Practically, he is out since the municipal elections in June last year," said a senior leader.

In the MP's absence, his wife, chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a gynaecologist, has made the BJP sick of her complaining. The Amritsar East legislator brought into politics in 2011 has accused the party and the state government (in which it is a coalition partner with the Shiromani Akali Dal) of victimising her husband.

Senior leaders in the state BJP unit, including its president, Kamal Sharma, are not willing to comment on the matter. "Communication, however, has been sent to the party high command about the functioning of the Sidhu couple," said a source. "We will speak with him when he comes back," Shanta Kumar, leader in charge of Punjab affairs in the party, said in guarded words.

The party high command at the national level is silent on the issue. "But certainly, the manner in which Sidhu's wife is listing grievances is not liked by the party," a senior leader in Punjab has said.

The MLA was asked when her husband was expected to be back in his constituency. "After June 25," said Dr Navjot, "when he is out of his contractual obligation of commentating in the ongoing Champions Trophy knockout series in England." He was expected to return to his constituency after the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament that got over last week but the party has no "official intimation" as to when he will be back.

"He is upset at the way the party and the state government has treated him; there are no funds for development, we are scuttled in day-to-day functioning, he has no say in party affairs," Dr Navjot came out with a long list of grievances over telephone. She confirmed that it had been long since Sidhu had attended to his constituency.

Sidhu, said sources, had gone weak in the party, as he was dropped from the team of organising secretaries when the new BJP president, Rajnath Singh, reframed the party's structure in January after taking over for second term. Sidhu, who expected a promotion, was reduced to a member of the party's national council.

Adding to Sidhu's woes, former state minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla, who is also from, Amritsar, was promoted to vice-president in the BJP's national-level organisation.

Once a protégé of Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Sidhu was also close to other influential people in the party such as the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, and leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj. Lately, Sidhu is said to be out of touch with the senior leadership. "He (Navjot Sidhu) is the face of the BJP in Punjab and if he goes out of the party, the JP will vanish from the state," said Dr Navjot, adding she preferred to work as gynaecologist and would be in politics only till her husband was in that field.