A day after he was divested of key portfolios in a cabinet rejig, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu went incommunicado, fuelling speculation on whether he will take charge of his new assignment. The cricketer-turned-politician and his wife Navjot Kaur stayed away from the media on Friday.
An aide refused to divulge any details about the minister amid speculation over Mr Sidhu's next move.
Amid a tussle with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Mr Sidhu was stripped of his local government, tourism and cultural affairs portfolios in the Punjab cabinet reshuffle on Thursday. He has given the Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources Department.
The reshuffle, in which portfolios of most ministers were changed, took place hours after Mr Sidhu skipped a cabinet meeting. Instead, he chose to address the media at his official residence on Thursday.
Mr Sidhu had said that his department was "singled out publicly" for the Lok Sabha loss, asserting that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a "performer throughout". He refuted allegations that the party performed poorly in Punjab's urban areas, saying of the 69 assembly segments where it won, 34 were urban.
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal took potshots at the change of Mr Sidhu's portfolios.
"Interesting. Amarinder removes 'sherryontop'' (Sidhu) from the local bodies citing his performance as the reason for the Cong defeat in urban areas in the Lok Sabha poll. And now Sidhu has been given 'Power'' so that Sidhu can ''perform'' and achieve the same results in rural areas," Sukhbir Badal said in a tweet.
On the other hand, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Aman Arora congratulated Mr Sidhu for becoming the power minister, urging him to review three power purchase agreements with private thermal power plants signed by the previous SAD-BJP government.
Aman Arora claimed that it resulted in a financial burden of Rs. 2,800 crore per annum on the exchequer.
The tension between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu escalated last month, when the politician was blamed for the "inept handling" of the Local Government Department. The CM had said that Mr Sidhu's "failure" to initiate any development work impacted the party prospects in the Lok Sabha elections.
Captain Amarinder Singh had taken umbrage at Mr Sidhu's "friendly match" jibe during electioneering in Bathinda.
Mr Sidhu had questioned the probe into the desecration of religious texts in 2015, asking why no action was taken against the Badals, who headed the previous government in the state.
The Congress had won eight of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab while four were bagged by the SAD-BJP combine and one by the Aam Aadmi Party.