Since Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal said during an HT summit that “(Navjot Singh) Sidhu is welcome to join the AAP”, the public is waiting to see how long the former Amritsar MP and his wife can resist the offer, since they continue to attack the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as own party in the state. While the three-time MP and former India opener is quiet about any switch hit coming, his wife, Punjab chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, has made it clear she won’t contest an assembly seat in 2017 if the BJP stays in alliance with the SAD. Hindustan Times interviewed her on a range of issues about Punjab politics and the couple’s next move.
HT: Has the BJP gone down or up in the past five years?
Dr Sidhu: Very down, to the level of non-existence. Our leaders now complain about not being heard in even their own ministries. They can’t blame it on the (Shiromani) Akali Dal now. Where were they all these four years?
People chose you. Where were you when the public was suffering? Did the BJP stand with farmers? It just followed the Akalis and now they say it was the deputy chief minister that ran our departments. The state BJP leadership is responsible for the unit’s misery. I went public with my issues when it failed to take things up with the alliance partner.
What is your tussle with the Badals?
I am not bothered about myself. My grouse that the BJP karyakarta (party worker) is not looked after, and is humiliated and driven into a corner. The BJP worker has no say in the municipal corporations, local administrations, and even police. Why remain in an alliance that doesn’t allow the party to grow? If I say I want a DSP of my choice in my area, they decline. I seek funds for my works, and they don’t listen. I have no choice but to go to people with my issues. An Akali halqa in-charge has more authority than even the CPS. How many times do I need to go to the Badals? It’s nothing personal but they who make it so by making sure that whatever I want is not done.
Isn’t it contradictory when you speak against the Badals and yet remain in the government?
This is democracy. I have been a doctor and we question each other on treatment and surgeries. I just question for the betterment of the people. What is wrong in that? What is wrong when I say we should not have a BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System) project (in Amritsar) or spend crores of rupees on entry gates but focus on basic amenities such as roads and sewerage? When you are not heard, you scream.
During an HT summit, Kejriwal invited your husband to join the AAP. Are you going to join the AAP?
You have said categorically that if the SAD-BJP alliance continues, you won’t contest in the next state elections. Do you stick to that?
I do, it’s my word of honour. They (the Akalis) didn’t respect the alliance. I don’t quit because people voted me to work for them. After this term, I don’t want to work with people whose attitude is more dictatorial than democratic. Had they changed, I would also have changed self. They say I went public, but they left me no choice.
How do you see the chances of the Akali-BJP alliance in the 2017 polls?
I don’t know what they are going to do in one year but I don’t give them more than 20% seats. They push the development agenda now. Where were they for the past four years? Farmers are against the government, industry is in a sorry state, and the law-and-order situation is bad. People are hurt. They are pump in all the money they want but a year is too short to do anything worthwhile. Haste will only promote corruption.
Your detractors say former Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu didn’t give much time to his constituency.
Everyone talks about the amount of work he did as an MP. Now after he has left, do you see the MP so frequently in Amritsar? An MP’s worth is judged by the big projects he brings to the constituency, and Sidhu brought an international airport to Amritsar. He left when they humiliated him and dumped all his projects. I still have a signed letter from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal that all his projects would be complete by November 2014. The Ranjit Avenue sports complex is still a dumping ground. The Bhandari Bridge awaits widening. Security cameras are still not installed, while Amritsar continues to have robberies and snatchings every day.
Sidhu is out if sight. When will he resume active politics?
You will have to ask him.
Do you feel your constituency was ignored deliberately and there is an Akali hand in cutting you to size?
Money for any place other than Bathinda or the favoured Akali seats is hard to come by. An Akali hand for sure. Everyone knows that the CM and the deputy CM run the affairs in Punjab.