Chandigarh, July 14 (IANS) The rift between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu deepened on Sunday, when the latter resigned as Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources, the portfolios he had not taken charge of.
“I hereby resign as Minister from the Punjab Cabinet,” Sidhu said in a hand-written letter posted on Twitter. “My letter to the Congress President Shri Rahul Gandhi Ji, submitted on June 10, 2019,” the MLA from Amritsar (East) tweeted.
“Will be sending my resignation to the Chief Minister, Punjab,” Sidhu further tweeted after Chief Minister’s media adviser Raveen Thukral told IANS the CM office had not received his resignation.
Reacting to the development, Punjab Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said it was technically wrong of Sidhu to submit his resignation from the Cabinet first to the party President.
Urging Sidhu to reconsider his decision, he said the politician should talk to the Chief Minister and resolve the issues between them. “He is an intelligent man and can contribute a lot to his new department,” he added.
On June 6, Sidhu had been divested of the charge of Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs portfolios and given Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources in a Cabinet reshuffle, the first after the Lok Sabha election results.
Barring four, there were changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which Amarinder Singh said, would help further streamline the governing system and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
However, Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister ever since his wife Navjot Kaur was denied a ticket for the Lok Sabha polls, refused to take charge of his new portfolios.
On June 10, Sidhu met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Ahmed Patel in New Delhi and told them that his department had been singled out and publicly blamed for the party’s Lok Sabha poll defeat. Patel was entrusted with the task of resolving the rift between the Amarinder Singh and Sidhu.
The Chief Minister even met Patel during his visit to Delhi last month, but his office described the meeting as merely a “courtesy call”.
Meanwhile, differences between the two leaders increased further when Amarinder Singh kept Sidhu out of crucial consultative groups that were announced to review the progress of the state government’s flagship programmes and schemes.
In Sidhu’s absence, Amarinder Singh on July 10 also took some crucial decisions related to electricity shortage as it was affecting paddy sowing in the state.
The strife between the cricketer-turned-politician and the Chief Minister is not new. On several occasions, Sidhu has termed Rahul Gandhi as his “Captain”, reportedly irking Amarinder Singh, a retired Indian Army officer popularly referred to as ‘Captain’.
The war of words between the two leaders intensified after the Lok Sabha election results, when Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu’s controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue for the party’s poor performance in state’s urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.
The Chief Minister also reiterated that Sidhu’s “yari and jhappi” (friendship and hug) with the Pakistani Army Chief would not be tolerated, especially by Indian Army personnel, who were being killed by ISI-backed terrorists.