Minutes before meeting, minister Laljit Bhullar ridicules Sidhu
A meeting between Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and former Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, held on Monday evening, was sold by the latter as a new milestone in Punjab’s polity, where the ruling party and Opposition leaders can work together to rebuild the state.
Though there was no official word from the CM, his office; or, the Aam Aadmi Party about what transpired in the meeting, party sources said that not much should be read into the meeting of the CM with an “ordinary man, who wanted to give some suggestions for taking Punjab on a path of growth and development. He is neither the Leader of the Congress Legislative Party or the state party chief, but he sought a meeting with CM and he agreed,” they claimed. There was a lot of buzz about the intent behind the meeting.
Most constructive 50 minutes spent… Reiterated the pro Punjab agenda that I have stood for years… Talked about means to generate income, it’s the only solution to end Punjab’s problem… CM @BhagwantMann was very receptive… Assured that he will deliver on people’s aspirations… pic.twitter.com/BH77c1QFNX
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) May 9, 2022
Sidhu, however, say his aides, was completely floored “by the humility of CM Bhagwant Mann and gave him suggestions on increasing Punjab’s income to carry on development projects”. This meeting gave an opportunity to Sidhu to hit out at his detractors in Congress.
Though the meeting lasted for almost 50 minutes, the optics of the meeting were completely different from what Sidhu’s aides tried to portray. Not only was the meeting held amid public and media glare — in the office of Chief Minister Mann in the Punjab Civil Secretariat, but just minutes before the scheduled meeting, Transport Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar, ridiculed Sidhu by saying that “our CM is such a large-hearted man that he even agreed to meet Sidhu, who is ‘haara hoya, nakaara hoya aam aadmi’, who is not even a minister, MLA or an MP. Just see the difference… during the Congress and before them Akali rule, they would not give time to any AAP leader”.
Bhullar even said Sidhu does not know what he has to speak or do. “His party colleagues have come up with vague statements — some say he sought time from CM, others say CM called Sidhu and still others say that Sidhu approached the Punjab Governor, who in turn forwarded Sidhu’s letter to CM and suggested a meeting between the two. They should at least be consistent when they talk of the meeting,” he said.
This statement as well as the “off the record” statements by several party leaders have ruled out at any entry for Sidhu into AAP, considering the complaints seeking disciplinary action against him in the Congress.
Sidhu, himself, was unfazed by the statements given by AAP leaders about today’s meeting and literally sang praises for CM Mann after the meeting. “Mann has not changed at all after he has become the chief minister. He was humble and listed to my suggestions for increasing Punjab’s income through plugging leakages in excise duty collections, increasing VAT collections on retail fuels and increasing the tax collections through nipping the sand mafia. I used to give the same suggestions to my own party’s government, but to little avail. I urged the CM to stop the “thekedari” system as the political class hid behind these contractors. Fix the rate of sand, ensure that there is no liquor smuggling from distilleries, get the land under encroachment vacated and cancel the faulty PPAs — this is what I suggested to Mann. If he does this — which he can because of the huge mandate in his favour, he will be remembered in history as a man who rebuilt Punjab. I will only act as a pehredar (watchdog),” he said after the meeting.
Interestingly, Sidhu did not let go of a chance to again hit out at the Congress and his party colleagues, when he said that one minister who he wanted to act against those encroaching government lands, had himself encroached government property.