The accused ASI had demanded Rs 1,40,000 and agreed at Rs 60,000.
A friendly hug by the two sworn political enemies, Punjab Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Singh Majithia, has left everyone in Punjab politics wondering if it will bring an end to the bitter rivalry between these two Manjha-based stalwarts.
Sidhu and Majithia, who over the years are known for taking on each other head-on, publically shared a warm hug after a handshake on Thursday at an all-party meeting held in Jalandhar in support of Daily Ajit’s editor-in-chief S Barjinder Singh Hamdard, who has been summoned by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) for questioning in the case related to the Jang-E-Azadi project at Kartarpur.
Everyone present at the meeting was surprised when Majithia made the first move by walking up to Sidhu when the latter was addressing the all-party meeting from the dais. Seeing Majithia approaching him, Sidhu too moved towards him by leaving his speech midway and the duo tenderly embraced each other in the first sign of a thaw in their relations. Sidhu, however, said he still has his differences with Majithia but now favours extending basic courtesy, such as a handshake, even towards rivals.
Over the years, the Sidhu-Majithia duo has had heated exchanges on several occasions inside and outside the Punjab Assembly as the Congress leader has been training guns against the SAD leader over his alleged connections with drug cartels.
The Sidhu-Majithia rivalry goes back to the days when the SAD and the BJP were in alliance in Punjab.
Back in 2004 and onwards, as SAD’s key leader in the Manjha region that includes Amritsar, Majithia used to campaign for the BJP candidate Sidhu, who was “like a brother” to him, from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency.
But as the two stalwarts vied for supremacy egos clashed, and both of them started getting engaged in a bitter tussle which saw the latter eventually quitting the BJP in 2016 as the saffron party was not prepared to break the alliance with old ally SAD as demanded by Sidhu.
Sidhu later went on to join the Congress ahead of 2017 Assembly polls. After joining the Congress party, which came to power in 2017, Sidhu as a minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh government and later a Punjab Congress chief continued his tirade against Majithia and often blamed him for the drug trade in the state.
One of the most powerful SAD leaders, Majithia – a three-time former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) – left his home constituency Majithia (near Amritsar) accepting Sidhu’s “challenge” to leave his stronghold (Majithia) to fight against him (Sidhu) from Amritsar-East in the 2022 Assembly polls. This was days after the SAD leader was booked in a drug case even as the Akali Dal alleged political vendetta by the ruling Congress ahead of polls.
Apprehending arrest as openly demanded by Sidhu, the former Punjab minister Majithia (48) – the brother-in-law of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and brother of former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal – remained in hiding for days till securing an anticipatory bail from Punjab and Haryana High Court.
As Sidhu has consistently blamed Majithia for drug trade in Punjab, Majithia vowed to take his revenge by making the Congress leader bite the dust in the Assembly poll. But both Sidhu and Majithia eventually lost election to Aam Aadmi Party candidate, Jeevan Jyot Kaur, a political novice.
Majithia and Sidhu were lodged in the Patiala Jail at the same time. While Sidhu was sent to prison for a year over a 1988 road-rage incident in May 2022, Majithia was lodged at the Patiala Jail over a drug case.