Former BJP legislator Navjot Singh Sidhu began talking to both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party as soon as he announced last week that his newly-formed Awaaz-e-Punjab is not going to contest the crucial state elections.
Sources from all the three sides have confirmed that both Sidhu and his aides are back at the negotiating table, talking simultaneously to representatives of both the parties.
But wary of the past experience of dealing with him, both AAP and Congress leaders have decided not to talk to Sidhu directly but through others closely associated with their parties.
The Congress has deputed strategist Prashant Kishor, who is close to its vice-president Rahul Gandhi and managing the campaign for the party in both Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to speak with Sidhu. Sources in the Congress and those close to Sidhu and Kishor confirmed the two had meetings in Delhi last week.
Sidhu had announced on September 22 that Awaaz-e-Punjab would remain a political front and not a party because it did not want to divide the anti-incumbency vote in the state.
The AAP, too, having burnt its fingers in negotiations with the Sidhu couple last time around, is not dealing with him directly. Instead, his close aide, Rupinder Singh Sandhu – who was convicted with the former cricketer in a case of road rage in Patiala – is negotiating with a senior police officer close to AAP leaders.
“There have been meetings. The feelers are there (from AAP and Congress), I can’t deny that. But nothing has been concluded,” Sandhu, when contacted by Hindustan Times, confirmed.
Sandhu said both sides have to “spell out a clear vision for Punjab. If something favourable for Punjab comes up, Sidhu won’t take a minute to say yes.”
AAP leader HS Phoolka also confirmed that talks are on. “We don’t want a division of votes because the Akalis have to be taught a lesson. It will be good if things work out with Sidhu.”
Though Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann is opposed to the AAP roping in Sidhu, many in the Punjab unit feel winning him over will put the party past the problems that have sprung after it sacked Sucha Singh Chhotepur as the state convener.
Chhotepur is launching his own party in opposition to the AAP.