Local member of Parliament (MP) Navjot Singh Sidhu, back in his constituency after almost a year, was welcomed by his MLA wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, close friends and BJP workers here on Wednesday, even as the absence of several city-based party leaders put a damper on his ‘homecoming’.
After landing at the airport here, Sidhu headed a procession towards the circuit house. Party workers welcomed him at various places with flowers, drums and firecrackers.
However, Sidhu chose to skip his scheduled address to BJP workers at the circuit house and left to attend a meeting with officers of the district administration.
Repeated announcements were made that the MP would speak at the programme organised by the district BJP unit, but soon the news came that Sidhu was going elsewhere.
(Amritsar MP was welcomed amidst much fanfare on arriving in his city after eight months.
Justifying his move, the MP said, “There were no plans for my address. There are certain issues on which the Akali-BJP alliance wants me to be quiet, so I can’t raise these in public. I will address a press conference on Thursday and clarify all issues.”
Top BJP leaders from the city, including cabinet minister Anil Joshi, state party unit vice-president Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, state party general secretary Tarun Chugh, youth leader Manav Taneja, former mayor Shwet Mailk and councillors from the Joshi camp were conspicuous by their absence.
Dr Sidhu had recently visited Joshi’s residence to resolve some “misunderstandings”, but her initiative seemed to have gone in vain.
On the absence of key leaders on Wednesday, Sidhu said, “The mayor (Bakshi Ram Arora) is here, the district BJP chief (Naresh Sharma) is here. There are hundreds of BJP workers on the road. I don’t feel anyone has tried to sabotage my return.”
BJP youth wing chief Rajesh Honey, councillors from the Amritsar (east) constituency represented by Dr Sidhu, senior party leader Dr Baldev Chawla, Jugal Gumtala, Arun Bhalla and others owing allegiance to the Sidhu camp were part of the reception party.
Earlier, talking to mediapersons outside the airport, Sidhu said, “I am committed to Amritsar and that’s why people have chosen me repeatedly. My four wins (including one of his wife) are a slap on the face of those who doubt my credentials.”
“I won the first election on the basis of glamour, the second on the strength of my work, the third on trust and the fourth (wife’s election) on character,” he claimed.
(Navjot Singh Sindhu hugs his wife as she welcomes him in the city.
The MP, who had stayed away from his constituency after feeling “sidelined and suffocated” in the party, was non-committal on his plans to again contest the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar.
“This is the party’s decision (allotting ticket). I am just the party’s soldier. If the party wants my ‘balidaan’ (sacrifice), I am ready for it.”
He added, “I am the co-incharge of the Delhi polls and part of various committees formed by BJP election campaign committee chairman Narendra Modi. The party is behind me. Even party chief Rajnath Singh asked for my views on the poll strategy.
Sidhu was last seen at the mayor’s swearing-in ceremony in September last year. He remained absent during visits by Modi (in June) and Rajnath Singh (July) to the city.
Justifying his TV assignments, he said, “Politics is a mission for me, not a business. TV is my business to earn a living. Arun Jaitley is a big leader, but he still has not left the lawyer’s profession. Sukhbir (Badal) bhaji has not left his business. It’s for my profession that I had to go out of the city.”
On being asked whether he was expecting support from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the light of reported differences with Akali leaders, Sidhu said, “Had the Akali-BJP alliance not supported me, I would not have won. There is support for me.”
Later, after a meeting with the district administration, Sidhu said, “I held a detailed meeting with the deputy commissioner. I will reveal details during Thursday’s press conference. Amritsar’s development is my agenda.”
When asked about the absence of top party leaders, district BJP chief Naresh Sharma said, “Cabinet minister Anil Joshi was busy in Chandigarh. Other leaders can themselves tell why they failed to turn up.”
He admitted that Sidhu was scheduled to address party workers, but had to change his plan due to the meeting with administration officials.
“The district BJP is united,” he claimed.
Cabinet minister and BJP MLA Anil Joshi, state BJP unit vice-president Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, state party general secretary Tarun Chugh, youth leader Manav Taneja, former mayor Shwet Mailk and councillors from the Joshi camp were not present to welcome Navjot Singh Sidhu.