CHANDIGARH: Once close friends, they are now political enemies. They are in fray from Amritsar (East) that will witness a bitter but an interesting 'do-or-die' battle in this Punjab Assembly election. The poll fight has become a clash of two titans — sitting legislator and Congress state chief Navjot Singh Sidhu versus Bikram Singh Majithia, one of the most powerful Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders.
Besides contesting from the Majitha constituency, near Amritsar, where he is the sitting legislator, Majithia, who is brother-in-law of SAD President Sukhbir Badal, is also contesting from Amritsar (East).
While announcing his candidature on Wednesday, Badal said Majithia would contest against Sidhu "to dismantle his arrogance". The Sidhu-Majithia duo have had heated exchanges on several occasions in the Assembly.
And Sidhu has been training guns against Majithia over his alleged connections with drug cartels.
Booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act last month, Majithia has been trying to secure protection from arrest from the Supreme Court.
Considered a Congress stronghold, Amritsar (East), the seat that came into being after 2012 delimitation, has backed Sidhu and his namesake wife — Navjot Kaur.
In 2017, the cricketer-turned-politician not only defeated his BJP rival Rajesh Honey with a big margin of over 42,000 votes but also played a role of a game-changer for the party by winning 10 out of the 11 seats in Amritsar district, once the citadel of the SAD-BJP combine.
Coming in support of her former cricketer husband, Navjot Kaur said. "Get the bail first". She was responding to the pitting of Majithia against Sidhu to make the contest high voltage.
"I don't feel that there is any arrogance in us. He can also contest from behind the bars," Navjot Kaur, who represented Amritsar (East) as the SAD-BJP combine candidate from 2012-17, said, adding they consider 'no challenge' from the Akali Dal as Amritsar is their 'karmbhumi' (place of work) and they worked for their constituents.
Navjot Sidhu is a three-time Amritsar MP from the BJP. In 2014 he "sacrificed" this seat for his 'guru' Arun Jaitley. Later he was adjusted in the Rajya Sabha by the BJP but not finding a bigger role in Punjab, he quit the party and resigned from Parliament.
Saying the political life of the former cricketer is coming to an end, Badal told the media, "Sidhu's arrogance will be his undoing. He has been harping on his support among the masses. Now his support will be tested with 'Majha da sher' (warrior from Punjab's Majha region) taking him on in his home constituency.
"He should get ready to fight the brave SAD workers. We will break his arrogance by ensuring he loses his security deposit."
Responding to Majithia's candidature against the party chief, Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka, a vocal Dalit face, told IANS, "The Akali Dal wanted Majithia to taste defeat at the hands of Sidhu. The voters will teach him a lesson on their own."
Expressing gratitude to Badal for giving him the opportunity to contest from Amritsar (East), an elated Majithia said: "Akalis have a brave history of fighting to safeguard the rights of Punjabis and protecting them from the anti-Punjab elements like Sidhu."
The younger brother of former Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and brother-in-law of former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, sitting legislator Majithia, who is the eye of storm again, was summoned by Enforcement Directorate in 2014 for investigating the money laundering link in the Rs 6,000 crore international synthetic drugs racket busted by the Punjab Police in 2013.
In the latest drugs case, he got protection from arrest from the Punjab and Haryana High Court till January 28 in the case registered against him by the Punjab Police in Mohali on December 20.
He was booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, including Sections 25 (punishment for allowing premises), 27 (A) (whoever is financing any activities pertaining to narcotic drugs) and 29 (party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence).
Majithia, one of the most powerful Akali leaders, is also facing allegations of having links with certain NRIs who have been accused of international money laundering related to the massive drugs racket.
Responding to the recent drug case against Majithia, SAD patriarch and five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said he was apprehending such an action by the Congress government. (IANS)