Navjot Singh Sidhu targeted by BJP for calling Imran Khan his ‘Bara Bhai’

By: News Desk      Published: 11:06 AM, 21 Nov, 2021
Navjot Singh Sidhu targeted by BJP for calling Imran Khan his ‘Bara Bhai’
Navjot Sindh Sidhuk.

It’s unimaginable that former Indian cricketer and Congress party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu visits Pakistan and the ruling BJP let it go without attempting to undermine it.

The latest yatra of the Congress MLA from Indian Punjab's Amritsar (East) seat triggered a row after reportedly calling Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as his "bara bhai", or elder brother.

Mr Sidhu was visiting the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan (via the Kartarpur corridor), before which he and members of his entourage were received and garlanded by a Pakistani official. A video of that interaction was tweeted by the BJP's Amit Malviya.

In the short clip the Pakistani official greets Mr Sidhu on behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan, to which the former Indian cricketer seems to respond: "Thank you... he (Imran Khan) is like my bhai... my bara bhai."

Mr Malviya and the BJP have lost no time tearing into the Congress, the Gandhis and "a Pakistan-loving Sidhu", including reminding voters about his controversial embrace of Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in 2018, for which he was ticked off by ex-Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

"Rahul Gandhi's favourite, Navjot Sidhu, calls Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan his 'bara bhai'. Last time he hugged General Bajwa, Pakistan Army's Chief, heaped praises. Is it any surprise the Gandhi siblings chose a Pakistan-loving Sidhu over veteran Amarinder Singh?" Mr Malviya tweeted.

That last line has raised some eyebrows, given Mr Singh has formed his own political outfit and has confirmed he is open to seat-sharing deals with the BJP and breakaway Akali Dal factions.

It wasn't just the BJP that slammed the Congress. Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal hit out at Mr Sidhu for "repeatedly insulting and demoralising the country's soldiers".

He demanded the Gandhi family - which has supported Mr Sidhu in his spat with Amarinder Singh - explain the comment and apologise to the people of the state.

"They should explain whether Sidhu's utterances are of his own accord or whether he speaks for the Gandhi family. Punjabis want to know whether the Gandhi family...  is again fomenting trouble in the state."

AAP leader Raghav Chadha also chimed in, saying it is "deeply worrying that Punjab's ruling party and Chief Minister) are professing their love for Pakistani PM and Pakistan".

The row seemed more political as the attacks on the Congress come months before Punjab votes for a new government..

However, in a sign of the continuing discord within the party's ranks ahead of the election, minister Pargat Singh seemed to defend Mr Sidhu. "When PM Modi goes (to Pakistan) he is 'desh premi'. When Sidhu goes, he is 'desh drohi'. Can't I call you a brother? We follow Guru Nanak Dev's philosophy," Mr Singh told news agency ANI.

As for Mr Sidhu, he appeared unconcerned by the row his remarks have caused. To a direct question about the BJP's accusations, he said: "Let the BJP say whatever they want."

On the re-opening of the corridor, he praised both Prime Minister Khan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and called on them to also reopen cross-border trade via Punjab.