Navjot Sidhu to start fast-onto-death Saturday for Amritsar

Chandigarh, Sep 27 (IANS) After remaining silent for just three days after being directed to do so by the BJP top brass, Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu Friday announced that he will start a fast-onto-death from Saturday to seek development of his constituency.

"I was directed by party president Rajnath Singh to remain silent. For me, party discipline is on one side and my duty for Amritsar and its people is on the other side.

"Without talking against anyone and without blaming anyone, I have decided to fulfil my duty for Amritsar and will sit on fast unto death from Saturday," Sidhu said in a statement released by his office in Amritsar, 250 km from here.

Sidhu had blamed the Punjab government for scuttling development projects meant for Amritsar, but the state government Friday claimed that there was "no delay" on executing development projects in Amritsar.

Sidhu, who remained absent from his constituency for nearly eight months, returned to Amritsar earlier this month, and hit out at the Parkash Singh Badal government for not doing enough for the development of Amritsar despite it being a Sikh holy city.

The outburst by Sidhu on the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance government left the chief minister peeved. Badal even refused to meet Sidhu earlier this week when Rajnath Singh tried to resolve the controversy.

The Akali Dal-BJP have an alliance government in the state since March 2007.

Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the deputy chief minister, said Sidhu's issues were an "internal matter" of the BJP since most of the issues pertained to departments handled by BJP ministers in the Punjab government.

Sidhu had not only blamed the Badal government for ignoring Amritsar, which is home to the holiest of Sikh shrines 'Harmandar Sahib' (popularly known as Golden Temple), but even alleged that crores of rupees meant for the city's development were diverted by the government to other places.

He sought a judicial probe into the diversion of funds.

In a statement issued after Sidhu announced his fast-onto-death, the Punjab government said: "Development projects in Amritsar have always been undertaken and pursued with expeditiousness, urgency and speed befitting the immense religious and historical status of the city.

"There has never been any delay at the level of the state government or the local bodies in Amritsar. The only delays have been for reasons beyond the government control such as court interventions or Government of India clearances."

The state government statement claimed that there were no "anomalies" in the Amritsar Improvement Trust lending money as loan on interest to other local bodies.

Admitting that crores of rupees were lent to other municipal authorities, the statement said that everything was done according to rulers and procedures.

A spokesman of the Punjab government disclosed Friday that Chief Minister Badal had already replied to Sidhu's letter, giving detailed information on status of various projects, as sought by Sidhu.

The chief minister Friday described Sidhu's announcement as "unfortunate and unwarranted".

Talking to the media in Mohali near Chandigarh, Badal said that Sidhu should not have taken this step on these issues which could have been amicably resolved across the table.

He said he always held Sidhu in high esteem.

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