A controversy erupted after the rally of Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Moga on Thursday after Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was not included in the list of speakers.
A miffed Sidhu said it was the first time after former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s rally in Amritsar in 2004 that he has not been allowed to speak. Sidhu was then Amritsar MP from the BJP.
“If I am not good enough to speak at Rahul’s rally, I am not good enough as a speaker and a campaigner. Whether I am invited to speak or not is something that is not under my control. But it has shown me my place and made it clear who all from the Congress will campaign for the party in the coming Lok Sabha polls,” Sidhu said.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said Sidhu should have been among the speakers and not inviting him to speak was an oversight. “Sidhu is our party’s star campaigner. It was an oversight on part of the party. Rahul ji asked me if all had spoken, when he (Rahul) was invited to speak. I told him I do not know as I had come with him,” Jakhar said.
The event was anchored by state cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, whose department was the organiser of the debt waiver function. Randhawa said he was asked by chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs, Asha Kumari, to name just four speakers.
“I was told that Rahul ji was getting late for another rally at Kangra in Himachal so only Jakhar, the CM, Asha Kumari and Rahul ji will speak. Had I been told Sidhu too is to be invited, I would have called him. He is our party’s star campaigner and I enjoy a good rapport with him,” Randhawa said.
Sidhu, who had prepared to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Balakot airstrikes, said he could not speak to Rahul too as the Congress president had to rush to Kangra. The Punjab chief minister and Sidhu have taken divergent stands on the airstrikes, with Sidhu questioning the BJP on the number of casualties and Amarinder saying that the “message that acts of terror would not go unpunished was more important than whether one militant was killed in the airstrikes or 100”.