Patiala (Punjab): After remaining behind bars for 317 days at a jail in his hometown Patiala in a 1988 road rage case, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who lost more than 30 kg weight during the sentence, on Saturday evening walked out of the jail and slammed both the state AAP government and the Central BJP government.
Donning black turban and a Pathani suit with a blue jacket, former Punjab Congress chief Sidhu, who was released prematurely with a remission of 45 days in his prison term, said he was told that he would be released by 11.45 a.m.
He got a rousing reception by his supporters, who had been desperately awaiting his release since morning.
Chanting “Navjot Sidhu zindabad”, party senior leaders comprising Amritsar Congress MP Gurjeet Aujla and former MLAs Ashwani Sekhri, Sukhwinder Danny and Sunil Dutti were present among hundreds of fans and sympathisers.
“My release was deliberately delayed,” the cricketer-turned-politician, who is hitting the spotlight with a splash of colours, told the media outside the jail. He was released at around 5.51 p.m.
“No government can get stronger by weakening Punjab,” said Sidhu, indirectly hitting the BJP-led Central government.
“Whenever a dictatorship came to this country a revolution has also come and this time, the name of that revolution is Rahul Gandhi. He will rattle the government.”
Sidhu said there “was no democracy in Punjab and that a conspiracy is being hatched to bring President’s Rule in the state.” He said minorities were being targeted in the state.
He accused Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of “giving false hopes” to the people of Punjab. Expressing solidarity with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was recently disqualified as Lok Sabha MP, Sidhu said: “Rahul Gandhi is a protector of the Constitution and Sidhu is standing with him.”
Previously, Sidhu was expected to be released under the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in January, but the state government had denied his remission of sentence.
Sidhu was a one-year sentence by the Supreme Court the road rage case on May 19, 2022.
He surrendered in the Patiala jail the next day after his conviction.
Jail officials told IANS that Sidhu was prematurely released for his good conduct. His scheduled release from jail was May 16.
Sidhu was lodged in an ordinary barrack as the government has decided to abandon the special cells in jails for VIP prisoners.
The apex court, which reserved the judgment in March, overturned its 2018 judgment, which had reduced the punishment for Sidhu in the case, after a review petition was filed by the family of Gurnam Singh, who had died in the incident.
On December 27, 1988, Sidhu and one of his friends, Rupinder Singh Sandhu, had on December 27, 1988, hit Gurnam Singh, 65, on his head near the Sheranwala Gate crossing in Patiala.
Police had said Sidhu fled from the scene after committing the crime. Gurnam Singh was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.
Sidhu said Gurnam Singh died of a cardiac arrest and not because he was punched in the head.
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