Former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu continues to be in talks simultaneously with the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress.
Sidhu is still negotiating with the AAP, a top party leader has confirmed, even as the ex-cricketer and his political front Awaaz-e-Punjab (AEP) continue to discuss the terms for contesting the Punjab assembly elections on Congress tickets.
“Our doors are still not closed for Sidhu but we can’t accept conditions. Talks are still on,” a member of AAP’s top decision making body, the Political Affairs Committee told HT.
Another AAP leader said the party cannot offer tickets to both Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu – who won the 2012 assembly election from the Amritsar (East) seat – nor to the Bains brothers, Balwinder Singh and Simarjit Singh who are both independent legislators.
“Our constitution has a one ticket per family norm and we will not change it,” he said. AAP leaders who have met Sidhu or his associate and former SAD legislator Pargat Singh in the last one week said negotiations with Sidhu are moving slowly because of the logjam.
Despite the negotiations not making any headway in the last one month, both the Congress and AAP continue to engage AEP leaders. Both fancy their chances of coming to power in the state that is expected to see an election fought in the shadow of 10 years of anti-incumbency in early 2017. A triangular contest will make winning margins smaller and a fourth front or strong independents in the fray could throw up unexpected results.
The Congress sees the Punjab election as an important milestone on its road to recovery and AAP sees it as a stepping stone to expanding beyond Delhi. Both are eyeing the Goa and Gujarat polls and a poor showing in Punjab is expected to affect them there.
“We do not want the Congress to benefit from AEP merging with it,” an AAP leader said.
A source in AEP close to Sidhu said the front will not join hands with either side without a concrete roadmap being agreed to. “The assurance that first we join them and then things will fall in place is not acceptable,” he said.
A top Congress source in New Delhi said it was conveyed to Sidhu he should campaign for the party and wait for his turn as the Congress looks for the next generation of leadership in Punjab after Capt Amarinder Singh.
Surveys conducted by the Congress have indicated Sidhu, Pargat Singh and Balwinder Bains could prove to be strong candidates if they contest on the party’s tickets, sources close to Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh revealed.
Yet, both Sidhu and Singh have spoken against each other since the former BJP lawmaker quit the Rajya Sabha in July. He was expected to join AAP on August 14 but put off the decision. On September 2, he announced the launch of AEP and lashed out against AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. But that has not stopped AAP from negotiating with Sidhu either.