Cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s tryst with controversy does not appear to be ending anytime soon. The uproar over his visit to Pakistan to attend the oath ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his embrace to Army chief Qamar Bajwa had hardly died down that Sidhu decided to visit the neighbouring country again. This time, it was to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor. After being criticised for his decision to accept Pakistan’s invitation for the event and shower praise on Imran Khan for his role in the opening of the corridor, a new row involving him has erupted.
1. Navjot Singh Sidhu Spotted With Pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla
All hell broke loose when a photograph of Sidhu with Gopal Singh Chawla, a pro-Khalistan leader, emerged online. Chawla posted the photo with Sidhu on his Facebook page, adding fuel the controversy around his Pakistan visit.
The presence of Chawla, along with Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, came as a surprise for India in what it considered a civilian event. India had also sent two Union ministers as its representative to Pakistan.
Chawla told CNN-News18 on Thursday, “What is the big deal in this? I don’t know why I am dragged into everything. Why such links are created…. I have no intention of creating any terror.”
However, this is not the first time, Navjot Singh Sidhu has been at the receiving end over his decisions. Here are the times when the Punjab Minister didn’t shy away from courting controversies –
2. Skipping the funeral of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
In August 2018, despite severe backlash, Sidhu skipped the funeral of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and went to Islamabad for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Imran Khan.
“Being a law abiding citizen I am very disciplined when it comes to the norms of a nation. I waited for clearance of my Pakistan visit. I was surprised when madam Sushma called me personally to intimate that the requisite clearance has been granted,” he was quaoted as saying in response.
3. Navjot Singh Sidhu embraces Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa
In August 2018, Bajrang Dal declared a Rs 5-lakh bounty on Sidhu’s head for embracing Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in of Imran Khan. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too attacked the Punjab Minister for embracing Bajwa and sitting beside the President of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). However, not all was lost as war veterans lent their support to Sidhu in a report carried by The Indian Express. BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha too came out in his support and said that even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi had hugged their Pakistani counterparts during their visits to Pakistan. However, the jury is still out and about!
4. Sidhu’s offensive remark against Indore’s woman mayor
At the ongoing campaign rally in Indore ahead of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, Congress leader and Punjab minister Sidhu traded barbs at Indore Mayor Malini Lakshmansingh Gaur over her demolition drive in the city without paying compensation.
He reportedly said, “Taali thoko aur iske sath mahapaur ko bhi thoko,” (clap your hands and also hit the mayor), he had said, accusing Gaur and the municipal administration of demolishing people’s houses without paying them compensation. “Thoko Taali” (clap your hands) is known as Sidhu’s famous catch phrase.
BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi reportedly called the minister “Mr Stupid” and sought his apology over the “obscene remark”.
5. Sidhu says can relate more with Pakistan than South India
In October 2018, while participate in the 7th Khushwant Singh Literature Fest in Kasauli, Sidhu said, “When I go to South India, I can hardly understand a word, except for two-three like vadakkam. I am okay with the food there. I can have dishes like idli but then I cannot have the South Indian cuisine for long. That culture is totally different. But if I go to Pakistan, they speak Punjabi and English and I can relate to them more.”
Both BJP and AIADMK slammed Navjot Singh Sidhu for comparing Pakistan with South India.
6. Sidhu makes a vulgar joke on national TV
As a “permanent guest” on The Kapil Sharma Show, Navjot Singh Sidhu allegedly made a “vulgar joke”. Advocate HC Arora filed a complaint against him for violating various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, as well as those of the Information and Technology (IT) Act.
As per the advocate, Sidhu had joked, “Kapil, please get married, otherwise after crossing 40 years of age, you would lose your reproductive capacity.’
7. 1988 Road Rage Case
On December 27, 1998, Navjot Singh Sidhu and his friend, Rupinder Singh Sandhu, argued with Gurnam Singh, over parking space in Patiala. The two men allegedly dragged him out of his car and beat Gurnam Singh who died soon after.
Sidhu was discharged by a trial court, however, the Punjab and Haryana High Court charged him with culpable homicide in the year 2006 and jailed him for three years. He then approached the Supreme Court in 2007 where the court suspended his sentence and granted him bail enabling him to contest the Lok Sabha bypolls from Amritsar.
8. Leaving an ongoing India tour in England in 1996
When Sidhu was a cricketer, he once walked out of an ongoing India tour in England in 1996. At the time, Sidhu was the opener and chose to leave without any warning. Back in India, he refused to reveal his reasons for leaving when faced with the committee. However, it was later revealed that he had walked out because of the alleged use of abusive words by the then captain Mohammad Azharuddin.
9. Row over Sidhu continuing with TV show
Sidhu came in the thick of a storm after a PIL was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, stating that the minister’s continuance with the TV show amounted to conflict of interest. Sidhu had continued to appear in a comedy show after assuming responsibility in the Amarinder Singh government.
“We may feel that Sidhu while working as a minister and a television actor may be ethically wrong, but this is no violation of law. We can only stop him from working if he is violating a law and not on the basis of moral or conduct grounds. Participating in a television show is an engagement of an artist and not a business or employment. The petitioner should prove that it was a propriety or conflict of interest issue,” the court noted.
10. IT Department froze Sidhu’s bank accounts
In March 2018, Income Tax (I-T) Department seized two bank accounts of Navjot Singh Sidhu for the non-payment of taxes. As per reports, he had Rs 52 Lakhs as due, attributing it to dresses and tour expenses. However, the department disallowed 30 percent of this expenditure, Sidhu had declared in his income return.