New Delhi: More than two years after being forced to vacate his Lok Sabha seat for Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s general election campaign, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu could return to Amritsar as a contender on a Congress ticket.
If a section of the Congress leadership from the state is to be believed, there is a strong buzz that Sidhu will be the replacement candidate for the Lok Sabha seat which was recently vacated by Captain Amarinder Singh, former chief minister and party’s state unit head. Amarinder has resigned from his Lok Sabha constituency to mark his protest over the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Sutlej-Yamuna-Link issue (SYL).
Senior Congress leaders have been persuading Sidhu to attend the induction programme of his wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, at Congress headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. If all goes to plan, Sidhu will be included in the list of star campaigners for the party in Punjab when it goes to polls early next year.
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Sidhu could not be reached for a comment.
Interestingly, Amarinder formally submitted his resignation to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday hours after he announced that Navjot Kaur Sidhu and Pargat Singh would be joining the party on 28 November.
Pargat Singh, a former captain of Indian hockey team, had co-founded Awaaz-e-Punjab political party with Navjot Singh Sidhu.
“Sidhu will be Congress’ star campaigner for the assembly polls next year. We have been in talks with him and have asked him to attend Navjot Kaur’s induction on Monday, to the extent that he should sit on the same dais when the announcement is made. He will be attending it as the husband of Navjot Kaur. He has prior engagements in Mumbai right now, so we will have to see if it materialises,” a party leader from Punjab said requesting anonymity.
With Amarinder as the face of the campaign, the Congress is looking to wrest power in Punjab after a decade from the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine government led by chief minister Prakash Singh Badal. The Congress is pitted against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is running a spirited campaign.
Another party leader from the state confirmed that ‘talks are on’ about the formalities of Sidhu joining Congress. The leader added that more members from Sidhu’s Awaaz-e-Punjab could join in the next few weeks. Sidhu’s party suffered a split on Monday when two of its founding members, Simarjeet Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains, quit to join AAP.
“I feel the induction of Sidhu, his wife and other leaders from smaller parties is a sign of how desperate the Congress is in this election. They know it is their last shot and if they fail to wrest power in Punjab right now, they could well be out of the race for 10-15 years,” said Jagrup Singh Sekhon, professor of political science at Gurunanak Dev University, Amritsar.
“As far as Sidhu or his wife is concerned, their induction is going to have a limited impact in the Amritsar region for Congress,” said Sekhon, who is also the state in-charge for the Lokniti programme of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
“If Sidhu contests from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, he is likely to perform well because it is more or less a Congress bastion. The big question is if that will help Congress override AAP which is seen as a strong and fresh contender in this poll.”