DW BUREAU / CHANDIGARH
The Punjab chief minister accepted Sidhu’s resignation at a time when there was speculation in media that the Congress high command had intervened to resolve the issue between the two leaders.
The 55-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, who was at loggerheads with Amarinder Singh, was stripped off key portfolios in the cabinet reshuffle on June 6.
The chief minister had divested Sidhu of the Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments and allotted him the power and new and renewable energy portfolio.
Apart from Sidhu, the portfolios of other ministers were also changed.
His refusal to assume the charge of the power department for more than a month also came as an “embarrassment” to the Congress as opposition parties attacked the Amarinder Singh-led regime over the issue. In Sidhu’s absence, Amarinder Singh has been monitoring Power Department’s functioning due to the ongoing paddy sowing season and a rising demand for power because of the hot and humid weather in the state.
On July 14, Sidhu had made public on Twitter his June 10 resignation letter addressed to then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, which was sent just four days after his portfolio was changed.
On July 15, Sidhu sent his resignation letter to Amarinder Singh’s official residence here while the chief minister was in Delhi.
On Tuesday, Amarinder Singh had said in Delhi that he would take a decision after going through the resignation letter’s contents once he reaches Chandigarh.
Earlier this week, Amarinder Singh had said that if Sidhu did not want to do his job, “there is nothing I can do about it”.
Since the portfolio reshuffle exercise, Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur have been maintaining a distance from media.
The tension between the two had come out in the open in May when Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for “inept handling” of the Local Government Department, claiming that it resulted in “poor performance” of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.
The former cricketer, however, said his department was being “singled out publicly” and asserted that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a “performer throughout.” He had even approached Rahul Gandhi on June 9 and “apprised him of the situation” besides handing a letter to him.
During Lok Sabha polls, Amarinder Singh had taken umbrage at Sidhu’s “friendly match” jibe during electioneering in Bathinda on May 17.
Sidhu had allegedly cornered the Congress government over the issue of desecration of religious texts, asking why no FIR was lodged against the Badals who ran the previous government in the state.
This had evoked a sharp reaction from Amarinder Singh. Hitting out at Sidhu, he had said, “If he was a real Congressman, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances, instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab.” “He is harming the party with such irresponsible actions. It is not his election but that of the entire Congress,” he had said.
Capt Amarinder Singh had said that maybe he was ambitious and wanted to be the chief minister.
Last year in Hyderabad, Sidhu had said, “(Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi is my captain…Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Amarinder) also.” Capt Amarinder Singh had also disapproved of Sidhu hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to the neighbouring country.
Sidhu was a former BJP leader who had joined the Congress just ahead of the 2017 Punjab assembly polls.