Days after Punjab minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu stoked a controversy by saying the party’s president Rahul Gandhi is his captain and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is only an Army captain, several leaders have criticised Sidhu for the alleged disrespect. Many of them also sought the Amritsar East MLA’s resignation, the Hindustan Times reported.
“Rahul is the captain of the entire Congress but Amarinder is the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress,” state Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa said on Saturday. “The tone and body language used by Sidhu for the CM was humiliating and disgusting. He has no moral right to continue as minister.”
“Sidhu is a man in a hurry. He has high dreams,” Bajwa added. “But he needs to slow down and talk less, else he may fall.”
“I feel what Sidhu said does not behove a minister,” state Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria said. “The tone and tenor he used for the CM was insulting.” Sarkaria added that Sidhu should quit if he did not want be a part of Amarinder Singh’s team.
Cabinet minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi also joined the protests against Sidhu. “If Sidhu feels the CM is not his captain, he should give up the position he occupies in his cabinet,” he said.
Punjab Minister of Forests and Social Welfare Sadhu Singh Dharamsot repeated his Cabinet colleagues’ complaints and said that a minister cannot claim to answer to the chief minister and expect to remain a part of a team. “In a comedy show, people laugh at such things. But running a government is not a comedy show,” Dharamsot said.
Jail Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said, “Showing disrespect to the CM cannot be condoned in any government or party.”
On Friday when asked about Amarinder Singh’s opposition to his visit to Pakistan to attend the foundation-laying ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Sidhu had said: “Which captain are you talking about? My captain is Rahul Gandhi. He sent me everywhere. Which captain are you talking about? Oh...Captain Amarinder Singh? He is an Army Captain. My captain is Rahul Gandhi saab. His [Amarinder Singh’s] captain is also Rahul Gandhi, my captain is Rahul Gandhi.” Amarinder Singh is widely known as Captain, after his rank when he served in the Army.
Soon the comment went viral, with many sections interpreting the cryptic remark as an admission that Rahul Gandhi sent him to Pakistan, following which Sidhu issued a clarification. “Get your facts right before you distort them,” Sidhu said on Twitter. “Rahul Gandhi Ji never asked me to go to Pakistan. The whole world knows I went on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s personal invite.”
Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan on the invitation of Imran Khan had drawn criticism from several quarters, including Amarinder Singh. Singh had said he had asked Sidhu to reconsider his decision but the minister chose to go ahead with the visit. Sidhu said several Congress leaders had praised him for going to Pakistan, including Shashi Tharoor, Harish Rawat and Randeep Surjewala.
On being questioned about the demands for his resignation, Sidhu said on Saturday that he is accountable only to his conscience and the people of Punjab. “I live in a space where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,” he said. “If someone distorts my statement, it is not my fault. I have also said in the press conference that Amarinder is like my father.”