Sidhu skips Cabinet meet, says can’t be taken for granted

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Chandigarh, June 6 (IANS) Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, skipped a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and declared later that he cannot be taken for granted.

This was the first meeting of the Cabinet after the Lok Sabha elections, and the Chief Minister set a deadline for the completion of his government’s flagship programmes within six months.

A defiant Sidhu said he can’t be taken for granted.

This is the second time in a week when Sidhu, the Local Government Minister who was in the city, boycotted a crucial meeting in evident protest.

Earlier, Sidhu was absent from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting chaired by Amarinder Singh here last week.

Even as the cabinet meeting was in progress on Thursday, Sidhu presented to the media at his residence a list of what he said were his ministry’s achievements.

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He refuted charges against him of poor performance.

Sidhu provided “facts” to prove that the Congress performed well in the Lok Sabha elections in the urban areas of Punjab too.

He made it clear that he cannot be taken for granted as he had been a performer throughout his life — be it in cricket, showbiz or politics.

The strife between the cricketer-turned-politician and the Chief Minister is not new.

On several occasions, Sidhu has said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi was his ‘Captain’, reportedly irking Captain Amarinder Singh, a retired Indian Army officer popularly referred to as “Captain’.

The war of words between the Chief Minister and Sidhu intensified when Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for the Congress’ poor performance in the state’s urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.

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The cause of the provocation was Sidhu’s controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue. He also blamed the Chief Minister for denial of party ticket to his wife from Chandigarh.

Referring to Sidhu’s remarks on the investigation into the sacrilege cases in Bathinda, the seat the Congress lost to Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal by 21,772 votes, the Chief Minister said the Minister evidently did not understand that a Special Investigating Team (SIT) had been set up by the Assembly.

The Chief Minister had also reiterated that Sidhu’s ‘yari and jhappi’ (friendship and hug) with the Pakistani Army Chief would not be tolerated, especially by Indian Army personnel, who were being killed by ISI-backed terrorists.

Thursday’s meeting took crucial decisions, including changes in Cabinet portfolios, insiders told IANS.

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