No senior Punjab Congress leader was seen either at Navjot Singh Sidhu’s residence here or at a court where the former cricketer surrendered on a Supreme Court order. The Supreme Court has sentenced Sidhu to a year in jail in a 1988 road rage case leading to the death of a man.
A few former MLAs, considered to be his loyalists and a few supporters, turned up at Sidhu’s residence in Patiala Friday morning to extend moral support to him. They included former MLAs Navtej Singh Cheema, Ashwani Sekhri, Surjit Singh Dhiman, Hardial Singh Kamboj, Primal Singh, Nazar Singh Manshahia and Jagdev Singh Kamalu.
They also accompanied Sidhu to the court where the former cricketer surrendered. They were also present at Mata Kaushalya Devi Hospital where Sidhu’s medical examination was conducted. Sidhu was later sent to Patiala jail.
Talking to reporters outside Sidhu’s residence in Patiala, Cheema, ex-MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi, said Sidhu respects the SC verdict. Navtej Cheema, however, downplayed the absence of prominent leaders, saying everyone has expressed their moral support.
Cheema also said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had also conveyed her support over the phone. “Sidhu ji will come back and shine once again, Cheema said, adding that Sidhu will make a comeback to politics after serving his sentence.
Cheema along with Sekhri and Dhiman had been the most visible faces while Sidhu had been holding parallel meetings. Punjab Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and another senior leader of the party Partap Singh Bajwa extended support to Sidhu, saying while they respect the Supreme Court verdict, they stand by their party colleague and his family.
In his tweet, Warring said, “With due respect for the verdict of the Hon Supreme Court, I stand by my senior colleague @sherryontopp ji and his family at this difficult hour.” Warring, who was among the prominent Punjab Congress leaders who did not turn up at Sidhu’s Patiala residence, described Sidhu as his elder brother and said, I love him a lot. Bajwa, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Punjab, also tweeted to express support.
“The INC bows before the verdict of the Hon. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Punjab Congress and I will stand firmly behind @sherryontopp and his family in this difficult time,” said Bajwa. After the SC sentenced Sidhu to one year in jail, Congress MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh on Thursday had said the apex court order has to be respected by everyone.
Singh, the Congress MLA from Kapurthala, had said the apex court’s order has to be respected by everyone and advised Sidhu to do self-introspection while stressing that the verdict was not a setback for the Congress. Congress MLA and former minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had also not seen the verdict as a setback for the party and had said the victim’s family got justice in the matter.
Navjot Sidhu lost the Amritsar East assembly seat in the 2022 assembly elections. But after the 2022 election results, Sidhu started actively raising the state issues and taking on the AAP-led government in the state.
Sidhu had even not shared the stage with the senior party leaders during the installation ceremony of Amrinder Singh Raja Warring as the Punjab Congress chief last month. Sidhu, however, had met Warring and congratulated him.
Last month, AICC in-charge Punjab Harish Chaudhary had written to party president Sonia Gandhi, seeking disciplinary action against Sidhu for trying to portray himself above the party. Chaudhary had also forwarded a detailed note to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring regarding Sidhu’s current activities.
Warring in his note had highlighted Sidhu’s parallel activities and his meetings with expelled leaders including former MLAs Surjit Singh Dhiman and Kewal Dhillon. Chaudhary had noted in the letter that Sidhu relentlessly criticized the previous Congress government despite being asked not to do so.
Following the party’s drubbing in the five states that went to the polls earlier this year, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had asked the party chiefs there to resign. The Congress appointed Warring in place of Sidhu after its drubbing in the state assembly polls.