Those opposing me are puppets, someone else is pulling their strings: Navjot Singh Sidhu
It feels like the Sword of Damocles is no longer hanging on my neck, said Sidhu about his acquittal in the road rage case despite his own government’s stand in the SC supporting the conviction.Updated: May 19, 2018 09:55 IST
On a high after the Supreme Court reprieve in a 30-year-old road rage case and self-publicised ‘courtesy calls’ on the Gandhis, crickter-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu now comes across more combative than usual. In an interview on Friday, he took on his detractors within the Congress dubbing them “pawns in the game of chess” – a clearest hint yet of his plans to bat straight. Excerpts:
Q: Your acquittal has come despite your own government’s stand in the SC supporting your conviction.
It feels like the Sword of Damocles is no longer hanging on my neck. Those who opposed me, made me feel important. It showed their insecurity. ‘Muddai lakh bura chahe toh kya hota hai; wahi hota hai jo manjure khuda hota hai’ (those wishing ill don’t matter, it is God’s will that prevails).
Q: The Congress came to power promising end to ‘mafia raj’. Why is your government’s reformist agenda losing steam?
The chief minister is the ultimate boss in any state. He has absolute powers. The execution of every reform depends on his facilitation. He can get it done through the bureaucracy. He can skin a cat in 200 ways. But when it comes to right or wrong for Punjab, I will not remain neutral. I cannot afford to stay neutral.
Q: But your cabinet colleagues accuse you of not being a team player. Why did you submit the new sand mining policy to CM in a haste?
When the cabinet sub-committee on mining was formed, I gave a statement that I will submit it by April 21. But the cabinet expansion took place that day and Sukhbinder (Sarkaria) was sworn in as mining minister. I invited him to the meetings. Tript Rajinder Bajwa (rural and urban development minister) too was present in the meetings. If still they have objections and do not want to implement it, what can I do? How can you explain how Telangana makes Rs 46 crore from sand mining in 11 days and we make less than it (Rs 40 crore) per year, for last 10 years? Do other states have a magic wand? We need to turn around Punjab by generating more revenue from our resources, not by imposing more taxes on its people.
Q: Your own partymen say you are all bluster, no substance. You have yet to prove the tax evasion by Fastway, the transmission company you claim was patronised by the Badal regime.
Facts will not cease to exist if you choose to ignore them. They are stubborn. Has a survey been done to find out the number of TV connections of Fastway? Has its computers being accessed? The system itself has facilitated theft in Punjab. Those who make these allegations against me are puppets. Someone else is pulling their strings. They are like pawns in a game of chess. But my job is to fight opposition parties, not my own partymen.
Q: What is the fate of the bill to levy entertainment tax on cable TV?
It has changed colours like a chameleon. It was to come as an ordinance. But they made it a bill. Why will I myself delay it? The purpose was to discipline the business. But it (the bill) has been rendered toothless.
Q: You accused Akalis of nepotism. But your wife has been made chairperson of Punjab Warehousing Corporation.
She was promised this even before our government was formed. She was also asked to fight the Lok Sabha bypoll from Amritsar but she refused. It is her call if she wants to join the corporation or not.
Q: There are murmurs of discontent in your party over the recent cabinet expansion.Some say you may emerge as a rallying point for disenchanted party men.
Only 11 players can play in a team. A cabinet of 18 could not have included all 77 MLAs. Some don’t get a chance to play. Also, you cannot please everyone. And the rallying point for any disenchantment has to be our party president, Rahul Gandhi, or those he has appointed as state in-charges.
Q: Many feel you nurse the ambition to be Punjab CM.
I have never hankered after positions. I was offered the post of deputy CM twice (before Punjab elections), but I refused. I gave up my seat in Rajya Sabha too. I would have been a Union minister had I accepted the BJP offer to contest from Kurukshetra and not Amritsar in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. I have the guts to give up posts for resurrection of my state. ‘Punjab ke ishq ke abhi imtehan aur bhi hai. Tu shaheen hai, parwaz hai kaam tera; tere samne aasman aur bhi hain’ (More tests of this love for Punjab are still to come. You are an eagle, you have to fly high for there are more skies to conquer).