Queering the pitch of his confrontation with the Parkash Singh Badal-led government, firebrand BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu has announced to go on a fast-unto-death here from today as his "last option" to get the "scuttled" development projects of the holy city implemented, and also to get back the funds diverted from the Amritsar Improvement Trust.
Sidhu, on Friday, broke his six-day silence, enforced by party chief Rajnath Singh, and set up Hall Gate, a British-era landmark in walled city, as the venue of his fast - a clear indication of his fraying relations with the saffron party that he belongs to.
"I will fulfil my duty for Amritsar Sahib without blaming anyone, and go on fast-unto-death from Saturday," he said, adding: "Every person in Punjab knows, why."
Sidhu, who had been firing salvos at the Badals, Punjab's ruling family, and accusing the state government of ignoring him and diverting Amritsar's money, said that Rajnath Singh had asked him to remain silent in the fight but now for people, he would put aside party discipline. "This decision (to go on fast) is my own and I will fight for Amritsar till my last breath," cricketer-turned-three-time MP said.
Asked if this was his final option, Sidhu told Hindustan Times: "Of course, how long can I remain silent. I am answerable to people. Since the authorities concerned have not reacted to my questions, I have to move on." Asked if this would not annoy the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high command and the state government, Sidhu said: "I am not thinking of consequences."
For once, Sidhu's dramatic - and defiant - move sent the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance scurrying for cover. But, the government was quick to craft a counter-strategy to blunt Sidhu's high-voltage campaign pegged to Amritsar's development that could well inflict political damage on the Sikh-dominated SAD.
In a flurry of statements aimed at stealing Sidhu's thunder, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal termed MP's fast-unto-death plan as "unfortunate and unwarranted" and justified the diversion of the Amritsar Improvement Trust funds. His son, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, lost no time in setting up an unscheduled high-level review meeting on the Amritsar projects and announced deadlines for all the projects. Interestingly, state BJP president Kamal Sharma, local bodies minister Anil Joshi and Amritsar BJP leaders were brought on board for Sukhbir's meeting - a shrewd move to isolate Sidhu within the BJP.
Way out of dead end
Asked what will convince him to end the deadlock, Sidhu said: "I am not asking for much, just that the government announces that it will complete all projects in a time-bound manner, fix accountability, and return the money diverted from Amritsar. They can spend it on whatever projects they like."