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Congress seeks but Sidhu in hiding, Jan 13 to be new joining date

Punjab Election 2017 Updated: Jan 10, 2017 22:30 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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Navjot Singh Sidhu had quit the BJP last year over differences with the top leadership.(HT File Photo)

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is playing hard to get.

The 53-year-old, who quit the BJP in September and kept the Aam Aadmi Party hanging for weeks, was expected to join the Congress on Tuesday but was nowhere to be found.

Congress sources said Sidhu had indicated he would join on January 9 but the plan was changed. Him dumping the BJP for Congress was to be a photo-op but Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was away on vacation.

Gandhi was expected back on January 10, so the event was deferred to Tuesday. Gandhi returned to Delhi, Sidhu, however, was untraceable.

While he remained incommunicado, the Congress named Gurjeet Singh Aujla, a young party leader, for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection. The bypoll will be held with state assembly election on February 4.

Sidhu, elected thrice from Amritsar on BJP ticket, was thought to be in the contention for the Lok Sabha again, but his no-show settled the matter in favour of Aujla.

Soon after Gandhi’s arrival, Congress leaders tried to contact Sidhu but couldn’t reach him, sources said.

In the evening, his camp indicated that the former Rajya Sabha member would now join the Congress on the auspicious day of Lohri, January 13.

Sidhu, who was in demand as a “star vote-catcher” after he quit the Rajya Sabha in July, has vacillated in making his next move. He finally walked out of the BJP in September after months of acrimony.

But even before he quit the party, he was talking to AAP and later the Congress.

AAP got a rude shock when Sidhu announced his political outfit, Awaaz-e-Punjab, with former hockey captain Pargat Singh and two others. That was in again in September.

Soon after, he again stared negotiating with AAP and the Congress, hoping to use Awaaz-e-Punjab as a bargaining chip.

In the meantime, his wife Navjot, who represented Amritsar East in the Punjab assembly, quit the BJP. She and Pargat joined the Congress on November 28.

Awaaz-e-Punjab was history.

Talks with the AAP broke down again. The party offered Sidhu deputy chief minister’s post but he wanted more, AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said recently.

When Navjot joined the Congress, she was asked when would her husband follow her in the party, she famously said, “We are like one soul in two bodies. The body has to follow the soul. How long can soul stay without the body?”

That was November 28. The “soul” continues to elude the Congress. Will it change on January 13? Watch this space.

Read| HT Analysis: The importance of being Navjot Singh Sidhu