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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

BJP may have to open without Sidhu

Gurpreet Singh Nibber , Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 05, 2013
First Published: 00:07 IST(5/7/2013) | Last Updated: 00:09 IST(5/7/2013)

It's likely to be a show without star host, as the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) team in Punjab assembles in Amritsar for the first innings.

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Many senior leaders, including party national president Rajnath Singh, will be attendance on July 7 and 8 at the opening meeting of the BJP's new state executive body but the constituency's MP, Navjot Singh Sidhu, may not be able to make it.

Sidhu was told about the meeting a week ago, say party leaders, but he has not confirmed his participation, so far. "The party has no clue of Sidhu, except reports that he is shooting for a television serial," said a BJP leader.

The parliamentarian's wife, chief parliamentary secretary Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, party's legislator from Amritsar East, had said last month that Sidhu would be busy till June 25 doing cricket commentary for Champions Trophy, contract that concluded in England on June 23.

Even 10 days later, Sidhu has failed to return to his constituency. "We have no information," said Rakesh Rathore, state general secretary of the BJP and party's man in charge of Amritsar. "I told Sidhu about the July 7-8 function but he said he was busy and would try to come," said Rathore, adding that Sidhu, being member of Parliament from Amritsar, should host the meeting.

It has been since June 2012 that the former international cricketer is inactive in his constituency. The party's national and state leaders are upset with him over it but, so far, maintaining "soft stand". "I will talk to him when I meet him, after the executive-body meeting, he (Sidhu) is a senior colleague and issues will be settled," said JP Nadda, BJP's national general secretary.

Party's man in charge of Punjab, Shanta Kumar, and co-in-charge Shyam Jajju will also attend the meeting, and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal will receive all leaders. Sidhu has long list of grievances, which his MLA wife has voiced from time to time. She said last month that her husband was unhappy the way the party and the state government had treated him. She alleged there was no money for development and the MP's day-to-day functioning was scuttled.

Navjot Sidhu, say sources in the BJP, has gone weak in the party after being dropped as organisation secretary by Rajnath Singh when he took over for the second term as party president in January.

Sidhu expected a promotion but remained only a member of party's national council. Adding to his woes, former minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla, who is from Amritsar, was made vice-president in the BJP's national-level organisation. "The meeting will involve planning for the coming parliamentary elections. It would have been good had the local MP been also present," said state party president Kamal Sharma. "Sidhu and I have not talked for a long time," he added.

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