The simmering tension between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu was out in the open again on Sunday with the former accusing the cricketer-turned-politician of damaging the Congress with his "irresponsible actions" just before polls.
Though Singh stressed that he had no personal differences with the Punjab tourism and cultural affairs minister, yet he said Sidhu was perhaps "ambitious" and "wants to be the chief minister".
State Health Minister Brahm Mohindra also slammed Sidhu and said he, along with other cabinet colleagues, would write to the Congress high-command to "restrain Sidhu from damaging the party further".
Hitting out at Sidhu, the chief minister said, "If he was a real Congressman, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances, instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab."
"He is harming the party with such irresponsible actions. It is not his election but that of the entire Congress's," he added.
"Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be the chief minister," Singh said.
The chief minister's statement criticising one of his ministers came on a day when all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab went to the polls.
Singh and Mohindra were apparently referring to Sidhu's "rebellious" remarks in Bathinda on May 17, when he appeared to corner the Congress government in the state over the issue of desecration of religious scriptures and questioned why no FIR was lodged against the Badals in connection with the 2015 sacrilege and police-firing incidents.
Sidhu, who was campaigning in favour of Congress nominee Amrinder Singh Raja Warring in Bathinda, had even said he would resign if action was not taken against those behind the 2015 desecration incidents.
Singh said it was for the party high-command to decide on any action against Sidhu, adding that the Congress, as a party, did not tolerate indiscipline.
He personally did not have any differences with Sidhu, whom he had known since the latter was a child, the chief minister added.
Such irritants notwithstanding, Singh exuded confidence that the Congress would win all the 13 seats in the state, saying he was getting very positive reports from all the constituencies.
A few days ago, Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu had blamed Singh and the Congress's Punjab affairs in-charge, Asha Kumari, for denying her a poll ticket from the Amritsar parliamentary seat.
Though Singh had refuted the charge, Sidhu had backed his wife's accusation, saying she would "never lie".
"My wife has that much strength and moral authority that she will never lie. This is my answer," Sidhu had said on May 16, when he was told that the chief minister had refuted Kaur's allegations.
Earlier also, the tension between Singh and Sidhu had come out in the public.
Last year, Sidhu had said in Hyderabad, "(Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi is my captain...Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Singh) also."
Singh had earlier disapproved of Sidhu hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to the neighbouring country.
Mohindra hit out at Sidhu for his "out-of-turn and untimely outbursts against the party leadership, chief minister and the government", saying it amounted to "sabotage".
"Sidhu has been in the Congress for just about two years and he has been trying to dictate terms and impose his own agenda. The high-command must take note of it as this is harming the image of the party and the government," he said.
Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) latched on to the tension between the chief minister and Sidhu, with senior party leader Bikram Singh Majithia saying "there is a complete trust deficit between the two leaders and they are hurling accusations at each other".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)