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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Now, Sidhu onslaught puts BJP in catch-22 situation

Pawan Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, September 22, 2013
First Published: 10:26 IST(22/9/2013) | Last Updated: 10:27 IST(22/9/2013)

The unusual stance of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu against the top Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership has ruffled many feathers within the BJP. Not only BJP president Rajnath Singh but also the saffron party's Punjab watchers are "displeased" with the timing, tone as well as tenor with which the three-time Amritsar MP has hit out even against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

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Sulking Sidhu had been conspicuous by his absence from his constituency for the past eight months. When this one-time poster boy of the BJP finally surfaced recently, his vituperative remarks against the SAD put especially the BJP on a bumpy wicket.

The primary grouse of the 49-year-old, once known for his hard-hitting abilities as an opening bat, is that the SAD, the all-weather coalition partner of the BJP in Punjab, had been clipping his wings in a well-orchestrated manner. The cold war turned into a full-blown war of words after Sidhu fired salvos one after the other, aimed at deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and enlarged the ambit of his attack by seeking judicial probe into the alleged diversion of funds from the Amritsar Improvement Trust.

According to top BJP sources, what is bothering the BJP leadership is Sidhu's outburst against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the "little harsh" harangue that Amritsar lacks development. But what primarily worries the BJP is the possibility of adverse after-effects of the episode in the run-up to the general elections.

The BJP leaders dismiss it as "bloated ego of Sidhu" which is at the core of unfolding of the political tussle. In BJP circles, every move of the MP is being watched closely after he violated with impunity the direction not to make public his grouses. The party leaders concede that the Amritsar MP is keeping them on the tenterhooks and that the recent developments have brought under sharp focus the time-tested SAD-BJP alliance and putting at stake the prestige of Senior Badal.

BJP sources indicate that "all the options are being discussed and debated" whether Sidhu can again bag the Amritsar seat. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Sidhu had managed to hold on to the seat by a slender margin of 6,858 votes, defeating Congress candidate Om Parkash Soni. The debate, whether Sidhu, who is a Sikh face of the BJP in Punjab, should be fielded again or dumped, has begun within the top echelons of the party.

"Not only the SAD cadre but also the foot soldiers of the BJP in Amritsar parliamentary seat are disenchanted with their MP," said a BJP stalwart. "Now, Sidhu is locking horns with those whose mere signal to their cadre can turn the tide either way."

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