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Shatrughan Sinha defends Navjot Singh Sidhu on hug row

Shatrughan Sinha defends Navjot Singh Sidhu on hug row
Speaking at a seminar in Kolkata, Shatrughan Sinha said he has never spoken against BJP but tried to ‘act as mirror’ for the party. (Photo: File | PTI)

Kolkata: BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha on Tuesday defended Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s hug to Pakistan’s army chief, saying both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi had hugged their Pakistani counterparts during their visits to that country.

Shatrughan Sinha said Sidhu has already made himself clear on the issue and “I don’t think there is any scope for any controversy”.

“I have already said our former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his visit to Pakistan had hugged his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Our present Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also hugged Nawaz Sharif during his visit. I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” Shatrughan Sinha, a member of parliament, told reporters in Kolkata.

Sidhu, who was in BJP and joined the Congress in January 2017 ahead of the assembly election in Punjab, has often taken a stand at variance with his party.

The cricketer-turned-politician, visited Pakistan last week for the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister. But a photo grab of him hugging Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the function landed him in a controversy back home.

The Punjab minister on Tuesday defended hugging the Pakistan army chief, saying he got caught in the moment after hearing that Sikh pilgrims may get access to a shrine across the border.

Speaking at a seminar in Kolkata, Shatrughan Sinha said he has never spoken against BJP but tried to “act as mirror” for the party.

“When people say that I speak against my party or the government, it is not speaking against them. I have received my training from leaders like Nanaji Deshmukh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani. I have learnt from them that party is bigger than the individual and country is bigger than the party,” he said.

“If I am saying anything in favour of the nation, something positive, then actually I am saying it in favour of the party,” he said.

“Keeping in mind the seniority and maturity sometimes you can show the mirror to others. When I am speaking on demonetisation, I am speaking after witnessing the chaos across the country that this decision has led to. Is it not my democratic right to speak up, I am not saying anything against the prime minister,” Shatrughan Sinha, who served as Union minister in the Vajpayee government, said.

He also criticised the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), calling it “complicated”. “The people of this country faced lot of problems. So is it not my duty to speak up and point out?” he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Shatrughan Sinha expressed sadness over several incidents under the present NDA dispensation which, he said, indicated that the democratic institutions of the country were under threat.