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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Will Navjot Singh Sidhu join AAP?

Will Navjot Singh Sidhu join AAP?

Arvind Kejriwal praised Navjot Singh Sidhu for resigning as a Rajya Sabha member, but did not reveal anything further

Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned from his seat in the Rajya Sabha just three months after the BJP nominated him. Photo: Hindustan TimesPremium
Navjot Singh Sidhu resigned from his seat in the Rajya Sabha just three months after the BJP nominated him. Photo: Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Speculation has swirled in the two days since Navjot Singh Sidhu of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit his Rajya Sabha seat that he is joining the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), but the cricketer-turned-entertainer-turned-politician is tight-lipped about his next destination.

Sidhu, 52, resigned from his seat in the Rajya Sabha just three months after the BJP nominated him. Assembly elections slated for next year in his home state Punjab and Sidhu’s reported annoyance at having to vacate his Amritsar Lok Sabha seat for Arun Jaitley in 2014 have fuelled speculation that he is headed for AAP, which is making a determined push in the state. Meanwhile, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has ruled Punjab for 10 years, is facing voter discontent.

AAP, which entered Punjab soon after winning the Delhi elections in 2015, has so far relied on its national convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for campaigning. Some leaders see Sidhu as a key player in the campaign if he switches parties.

Senior AAP leaders said that considering his star power, Siddhu will be a good addition to the party’s Punjab campaign. “Sidhu is a known face in Punjab. He is likely to join the party soon and will be a key face in the party’s campaign in the state. He has a clean image and is known for the good work he has done in his constituency," said a senior AAP leader, on condition of anonymity.

However, leaders are divided on whether the party will project Sidhu as the chief ministerial face in the state.

Kejriwal praised Sidhu for resigning as a Rajya Sabha member, but did not reveal anything further.

“He has resigned from Rajya Sabha seat. I admire his courage. He is a good man. I think all good people should resign from the BJP. There is nothing else right now. He hasn’t joined the party (AAP) yet. However, if anybody who wants to join the AAP, they have to become an aam aadmi first. It is premature right now. Nothing has been decided," Kejriwal said on the sidelines of a book launch in the national capital on Tuesday.

A three-time Lok Sabha MP from Amritsar, Sidhu was born in Patiala, Punjab. In 2004, he first contested and won from the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency as a BJP member, resigned two years later after a controversy, and won a by-election in 2007. He retained the seat in 2009, but in the 2014 general elections, he was asked to make way for Jaitley. Sidhu was miffed by the decision, senior BJP leaders said, and refused to contest from any other constituency. In April this year, BJP nominated him to the Rajya Sabha.

Navjot Kaur, Sidhu’s wife and a member of the Punjab legislative assembly from Amritsar-East constituency and a chief parliamentary secretary (health) in the SAD-BJP government, said on Tuesday that the only option left for Sidhu was to join the AAP.

According to BJP leaders in the state, Sidhu stands out by taking up people-centric issues and raising his voice against opposition parties. In the past, he has even criticised Kejriwal.

“His presence on television, his oratory skills, a corruption-free image and, most importantly, the fact that he is a Jat Sikh, all make Sidhu a very popular face in Punjab. Unlike leaders like Prakash Singh Badal or Capt. Amarinder Singh who do find opposition, Sidhu is one leader in the state who has no opposition. People might have a problem with the party he is with or the party he will join, if any, but you will never hear voters say anything against him as a person. He has commendable crowd-pulling skills," said Ghanshyam Dev, a Punjab-based political analyst and head of the department of political science at DAV College, Chandigarh.

However, Sidhu is no stranger to controversies. He was accused of assault in 1988 and found guilty in 2006, following which he resigned as MP. In 2007, after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction and sentence, allowing him to contest the Lok Sabha elections, on grounds of his moral character, he won the by-election from Amritsar in February 2007.

He is being seen as someone who will take AAP’s campaign forward, if he chooses to switch. Though Sidhu lacks administrative experience—he was only recently included in the BJP state committee—analysts say it may not matter on the ground.

“Voters at the grassroots level do not care about administrative experience, they might want to give a new person a chance. Sidhu has worked for the people and his work has earned him many supporters. Moreover, these are problems Sidhu will face if he gets elected as the chief minister. This will in no way hamper his chances of coming to power," Dev said.

“If a politician like Sidhu leaves, he will not settle down for anything less than being the chief ministerial candidate of any party," he added.

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Published: 20 Jul 2016, 02:30 PM IST
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