Navjot Sidhu calls off fast after Rajnath, Badal intervene
Amritsar: Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu Saturday called off his scheduled fast-unto-death at the last minute after BJP president Rajnath Singh and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal intervened regarding the issues of Amritsar raised by him. Sidhu, the BJP MP from Amritsar since 2004, Friday announced that he will start a fast-unto-death from Saturday to seek development of his constituency.
The cricketer-turned-politician called off his proposed fast after Badal sent him a fax Saturday morning, assuring him to look into all the issues of development of Amritsar raised by him. Sources in the BJP said that Rajnath Singh also communicated with Sidhu after he announced his fast and told him not to go ahead with it. The chief minister had Friday described Sidhu's announcement as "unfortunate and unwarranted".
Sidhu, who remained absent from his constituency for nearly eight months, returned to Amritsar earlier this month, and hit out at the Parkash Singh Badal government for not doing enough for the development of Amritsar despite it being a Sikh holy city. The outburst by Sidhu on the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government left the chief minister peeved. Badal even refused to meet Sidhu earlier this week when Rajnath Singh tried to resolve the controversy. The Akali Dal-BJP have an alliance government in the state since March 2007.
After the war of words between Sidhu and Akali Dal leaders, including Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the deputy chief minister, intensified, Sidhu met Rajnath Singh in New Delhi and Chandigarh. Sidhu was asked to "remain silent" on the controversial issues by Rajnath Singh this week. Sukhbir Badal, who has been showing interest in development projects in Amritsar while ignoring Sidhu, had recently said that Sidhu's issues were an "internal matter" of the BJP since most of the issues pertained to departments handled by BJP ministers in the Punjab government.
"I was directed by party president Rajnath Singh to remain silent. For me, party discipline is on one side and my duty for Amritsar and its people is on the other side. "Without talking against anyone and without blaming anyone, I have decided to fulfil my duty for Amritsar and will sit on fast unto death from Saturday," Sidhu had said in a statement released by his office here Friday.
Sidhu had blamed the Punjab government for scuttling development projects meant for Amritsar, but the state government Friday claimed that there was "no delay" on executing development projects in Amritsar. Sidhu alleged that crores of rupees meant for Amritsar's development were diverted by the government to other places. He sought a judicial probe into the diversion of funds.
Amritsar is home to the holiest of Sikh shrines 'Harmandar Sahib', popularly known as Golden Temple. In a statement issued after Sidhu announced his fast-onto-death, the Punjab government said: "Development projects in Amritsar have always been undertaken and pursued with expeditiousness, urgency and speed befitting the immense religious and historical status of the city. "There has never been any delay at the level of the state government or the local bodies in Amritsar. The only delays have been for reasons beyond the government control such as court interventions or Government of India clearances."
Admitting that crores of rupees of the Amritsar Improvement Trust were lent to other municipal authorities, the statement said that everything was done according to rulers and procedures and that there were no anomalies. A spokesman of the Punjab government disclosed Friday that Chief Minister Badal had already replied to Sidhu's letter, giving detailed information on status of various projects, as sought by Sidhu. Badal had said Friday that Sidhu should not have announced his fast as the issues could have been amicably resolved across the table. He said he always held Sidhu in high esteem.