M A I N   N E W S

Sidhu case: Parties on back foot
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4
The decision on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to BJP MP and former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in the Gurnam Singh case and the legal battle that may ensue looks set to give a new twist to the political activity, including new alignments, in the state which is heading for the Assembly elections in less than four months from now.

While the main Opposition party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) smells a rat in the conviction of the Amritsar MP, Congressmen have been out to prove that it was the SAD-BJP government which had challenged his acquittal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Arguments on the fixing of the quantum of sentence to be awarded to Navjot Sidhu will start on December 6. And Navjot has stated that he will be present in the court when the hearing starts.

Though the resignation of Navjot Sidhu from the membership of the Lok Sabha was accepted by the Speaker today, enterprising aspirants from both the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance have started staking their claims for party tickets on an anticipated “by-election.”

Looking at the chronology of events in the infamous Gurnam Singh case makes an interesting study of how the case progressed both because of its political intricacies and compulsions.

The incident took place in Patiala in 1988 when the SAD-BJP government was in the saddle in the state. Two years later, when the Sessions Judge of Patiala acquitted both Navjot Singh Sidhu and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu in the case, the SAD-BJP alliance was still in power.

The then government went in appeal against the order of the Sessions Judge which has now been set aside. At that stage, perhaps, the SAD-BJP leadership could not have imagined that the order on appeal would come as a big “political jolt” to them at a time when the political activity in the state has started gathering momentum because of the ensuing elections.

At the time of the incident and his subsequent acquittal, Navjot Sidhu’s political alignment, if any, was with the Congress as his father, Mr Bhagwant Singh, had not only remained Chairman of the legal cell of the Congress, but was also known as a staunch Congressman.

Subsequently, Navjot joined the BJP and won his way into the Lok Sabha in his maiden attempt.

“How the Congress can conspire against a man whom it had tried to defend and get cleared in the case?” asks a senior leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) holding that he has “documentary proof “ in support of his contention.

“In fact, the SAD leadership was feeling relieved after the High Court order of December 2. Many in the Dal were apparently not happy at the speed at which the popularity graph of Navjot Sidhu was rising. It may, perhaps, be the reason why of late he was not being invited to address rallies of the SAD supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and his junior, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal,” he remarked.

The Congress leader may have a point which both the SAD and the BJP leadership rubbishes. “He is one of our star performers and we are with Navjot Sidhu,” it asserts holding that the Congress game plan was to create a rift in the alliance. “It is rattled by the popularity of the SAD-BJP and wants diversion. That is why the Congress is now trying to get into intricacies and technalities of the case,” the Opposition leaders add holding that “Navjot Sidhu remains one of their mainstays.”



NRI wants ticket from Amritsar

Mr Vikramjit Singh Bajwa, a former chairman of the overseas cell of the Indian National Congress, has approached the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Rajnath Singh, for party ticket to contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.



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