Firebrand Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hasn’t taken charge of his cabinet portfolios, even 10 days after he was demoted in the Cabinet by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Sidhu suffers an estranged relationship with Amarinder Singh and is weighing his options. Indications are that Sidhu is unlikely to take things lying down. Sulking Sidhu met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi a few days ago to apprise them of the ‘treatment meted out to him’.
The developments unfold amid the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab inviting Sidhu to join the party. Sidhu joining the AAP appears unlikely for now, but the divide between Amarinder and Sidhu would only tend to damage the prospects of the Congress party in a state where the party managed to debunk Prime Minister Modi’s invincibility by winning eight of the 13 Lok Sabha seats.
Sidhu may be offered a plum organisational post, claim sources. The former cricketer was stripped of the significant local bodies and tourism ministry and allotted Power and New Renewable Energy portfolio.
Besides other alleged inept statements, Sidhu's ‘friendly match’ jibe on the eve of the election and his warning to Amarinder that he ‘cannot be taken for granted’ triggered the latter to cut him to size. The CM also blamed Sidhu’s inefficiency as a Minister of Local Bodies for Congress loss of Bathinda and other urban seats in Punjab.
Sidhu commands mass popularity in Punjab and is credited for Congress's performance in the 2017 assembly elections. His sidelining may arguably prove counter-productive, given that the Congress party has reasons to worry after the general election results. Despite being reduced to two seats each in the elections, the Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab nearly doubled its performance in assembly segments since last elections.
The opposition allies gained in vote share by over 7% since last general elections. The SAD-BJP combine currently has 17 seats in the state assembly of 117 MLAs. Election result shows that the SAD-BJP won in at least 36 assembly segments.