Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday said the party lost the Punjab elections because of the “mafia raj” that prevailed in the state and it now needed to reinvent itself, while praising Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann as a younger brother and an “honest man”.
He said he will support Mann, whose Aam Aadmi Party trounced the Congress in the recent assembly polls, if he fights against the mafia.
“He is an honest man,” Sidhu told reporters at the sidelines of an event where Amrinder Singh Raja Warring took charge as the state Congress president.
Sidhu had resigned from the same post after the party’s defeat in the Punjab elections.
“The Congress has to reinvent itself,” the former cricketer said.
“I did not speak earlier but everybody has a right to speak and I say today that the Congress lost because of the five-year rule of the mafia raj,” he added.
Sidhu said he has always fought against the mafia. Though he did not elaborate, Sidhu has in the past criticised his own Congress government in the state over alleged “mafias” in sand-mining, transport and cable TV sectors.
“My fight was not against any individual. It was against the system and against some persons who were eating into the state like termites,” he said.
He said his fight is for Punjab’s “existence” and not for any post.
“Till the time politics remain a business it will not be respected,” he said. “When Punjab becomes mafia-free, the state will rise.” Sidhu said he considered Mann his younger brother whom will support in the fight against the mafia.
“He is an honest man. I have never raised a finger at him. If he fights against it my support is with him, even rising above party lines, because it is a fight for Punjab’s existence.” In a tweet later, he said, “The Congress will have to reinvent to come back to power.” “Honest faces with moral authority and integrity will be the propellers. We are fighting a battle of existence for this great state… It’s either the Mafia or Honest people,” he tweeted.
For months before the elections, Sidhu had been questioning the leadership of the then chief minister Amarinder Singh. He also directed barbs at Charanjit Singh Channi, who took over as the CM ahead of the elections.
The AAP stormed to power after winning 92 seats out of 117 while the Congress got just 18.
Following the party’s drubbing in the five states that went to polls earlier this year, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had asked the party chiefs there to resign.