New Delhi: Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh Monday claimed that he had received a request from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, to include Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu in his cabinet weeks after he had “removed him”. The request, he added, came with a caveat: “Remove him again in case he fails to perform”.
Singh said Khan’s request came soon after he “removed Sidhu from the job” — Sidhu resigned from the cabinet on 14 July 2019 after he was divested of the local government portfolio. Sidhu is currently the Punjab Congress president.
“If I remember correctly, it was 20 July. Firstly, let me tell you I removed Mr Sidhu from the job because the man was totally incompetent, incapable and totally useless in his job. He was looking after local government and for 70 days he had not completed one file. I called him a few times and offered to give him more power if he wanted, which Sidhu denied. I told him I don’t want you in my government. Leave my government,” said Singh.
“After two or three weeks, I got a message from somebody whom we both (Sidhu and Singh) knew, saying that he (the Pakistan PM) requested me to include Sidhu in my government and remove him if he doesn’t work,” Singh said.
ThePrint reached Navjot Singh Sidhu through phone calls and text messages for comments on Singh’s allegations, but received no response till the time of publication.
However, Sidhu, who was asked to comment on the matter during a press conference in Chandigarh soon after, refused to comment. “I don’t want to comment on someone who’s a spent force,” he told reporters.
Sidhu and Imran Khan are former cricketing colleagues. Amarinder had also been among the critics when Sidhu visited Pakistan for Khan’s oath-taking ceremony in 2018 and was pictured hugging the Pakistan Army chief. Amarinder quit the Congress last year following years of acrimony between him and Sidhu.
Pakistan PM ‘would be grateful’
Giving further details about the alleged message, Singh said, “Message was that the Pakistan prime minister has sent a request that if you can take Sidhu in your cabinet he will be grateful. He (Sidhu) is an old friend of mine (the Pakistan PM) and if he doesn’t work then you can remove him. That was what the message that came.”
Singh made these comments while addressing a joint press conference with BJP chief J.P. Nadda and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. The press conference was called to announce the seat-sharing pact between the BJP, the SAD (Sanyukt) and Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress, which he formed after quitting the Congress last year.
The BJP will contest 65 of the state’s 117 seats, while the Punjab Lok Congress will field candidates from 37. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) will contest from 15 seats.
Voting for the Punjab assembly will be held on 20 February with results on 10 March.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)