Cricketer turned politician and television personality, Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday announced his plan to sit on “fast unto death” as a protest against the State government's non-clearance of various projects for Amritsar, from where he is an MP for the BJP that shares power with the Shiromani Akali Dal.
In a dramatic turn of events, Mr. Sidhu's staff distributed copies of his programme that is expected to begin on Tuesday. The statement was written on plain paper instead of the party letterhead or his official stationery as MP. Nor was it signed. The statement said that as per directions from his party high command, he had decided to keep quiet but his protest was borne out of his loyalty and accountability towards the people of the “holy city” who elected him. Mr. Sidhu did not oblige the waiting press corps with a personal interaction and preferred to remain indoors ever since he returned to the city in the forenoon.
Mr. Sidhu has alleged that on directions from Chandigarh, part of the Rs. 160 crore with the Amritsar Improvement Trust were diverted to other cities and towns, to ensure that the projects he had brought to the city were not implemented. Over the last two weeks, Mr. Sidhu has been engaged in a verbal duel with the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal.
After a prolonged absence from the constituency, which led to his “missing” posters being pasted in the city, Mr. Sidhu returned to the scene and launched vicious diatribe against the State government. The Deputy Chief Minister had “invited” him for a discussion over breakfast, lunch or dinner to resolve the matter; the Chief Minister too had offered to resolve the issues, but Mr. Sidhu remained relentless as he wanted “answers” to the questions which he argued were raised in public interest. The BJP chief, Rajnath Singh, during his recent visit had assured that the matter would be resolved amicably.
The Chief Minister through a statement reacted to Mr. Sidhu's recent announcement, as “unfortunate and unwarranted.” He said that while the issues could have been resolved through discussions, his government was committed to develop Amritsar as one of the most modern cities across the world as an ethnic and religious tourist destination. The Deputy Chief Minister undertook yet another review of the projects he had announced previously.
Through another statement from the Chief Minister's office, the State government went in detail to explain that any delays in the execution of the Amritsar projects were due to litigation or pending clearances at the Union government level. It explained that the funds from the Amritsar Improvement Trust had not been diverted, but loaned to other municipal bodies within the State, for which it shall earn an interest amount.