It was a foregone conclusion that Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been ploughing a lonely furrow for quite a while, would quit as a minister sooner or later. However, it took the cricketer-turned-politician over a month to make his resignation public. True to form, he had bypassed the Punjab leadership and shot off a letter dated June 10 to the Congress president, a post apparently still held by Rahul Gandhi. It was only on Monday that Sidhu finally sent his resignation to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh — a step he should ideally have taken in the first place.
Sidhu had been living on borrowed time in the Punjab Cabinet ever since he was accused of trying to sabotage the party’s campaign in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. During canvassing in the strategically important constituency of Bathinda in May, he had hinted at a ‘friendly match’ between the Akalis and the state Congress. This insinuation had not gone down well with Capt Amarinder Singh and his loyalists. The CM had even stated that Sidhu wanted to replace him, underlining the former BJP MP’s inability to wait patiently for his turn to occupy the top chair.
The Congress performed fairly well in the state, winning eight Lok Sabha seats out of 13, but it failed to stop the Akalis from retaining the Bathinda seat. Sidhu’s irresponsible utterances, coupled with his ‘below-par’ performance as the Local Bodies Minister, were cited as the major reasons for the party’s defeat in the Badal bastion. A fortnight after the poll results, Sidhu was divested of the charge of Local Government and Cultural Affairs and given the ‘powerless’ portfolio of Power. The ambitious Sidhu had been confident that his proximity to the Gandhi family would stand him in good stead once the Congress returned to power at the Centre, but the grand old party’s debacle dashed his hopes. With his gamble of putting all his eggs in the high command’s basket not paying off, Sidhu finds himself at the crossroads, even as Capt Amarinder Singh has consolidated his position as the party’s undisputed leader in Punjab.
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