Congress woos Navjot Sidhu after AAP puts him on hold

  • Jatin Gandhi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 20, 2016 17:43 IST
Navjot Singh Sidhu speaks to media after he resigned from the Rajya Sabha on July 18, 2016. (Raj K Raj/HT File Photo)

The Congress party has started making fresh efforts to woo cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu after his talks with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hit a roadblock over the unease in Punjab over his demands to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate and better role for his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu.

A senior Congress leader, privy to the developments, has confirmed to Hindustan Times that his party has opened a channel with Sidhu and his legislator wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu.

“The party is willing to offer the Lok Sabha ticket from Amritsar to Sidhu and a minister’s job in the state government to his wife,” the Punjab Congress leader said.

The couple did not respond to phone calls, text messages and attempts to contact them through their aides.

The offer, of course, is contingent on the party winning the 2017 assembly elections and Captain Amarinder Singh — who is the Congress chief ministerial candidate — vacating the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. Sidhu was elected thrice to the Lok Sabha from Amritsar and his wife is the sitting MLA from there.

On his part, Amarinder said on Friday that Sidhu is always welcome in the Congress party. “Sidhu has Congress DNA in him and he will always be better off in the Congress than in any other party,” he said.

Read | Navjot Sidhu says he quit RS for being asked to stay away from Punjab

Sidhu’s father, Bhagwant Singh Sidhu, was an office-bearer of the district Congress committee in Patiala.

AAP chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s comments that Sidhu needs time to think and his party respects that indicated that negotiations on the terms for Sidhu joining to AAP had reached nowhere.

In a string of tweets on Friday morning, Kejriwal said it was his “duty” to clarify the AAP’s stand on the former cricketer. “He met me last week. Didn’t put any pre-condition. He needs time to think. Let’s respect that (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted.

However, in another tweet, he left the question whether Sidhu would join unanswered. “He is a v gud human being n a ckt legend. My respect for him wud continue whether he joins or not (sic).”

As the talks between AAP and Sidhu collapsed, sources in the party said the couple was negotiating hard and seeking tickets for both while the party’s constitution lays down the norm of ‘one ticket per family’.

A senior leader claimed Sidhu wanted an assurance that his wife would be given a cabinet berth in Punjab and he would be the AAP’s face or get a Rajya Sabha nomination. Another leader said Sidhu wanted to be projected as the AAP’s chief ministerial face.

Read | Navjot Sidhu still negotiating terms of joining AAP in Punjab

“We told him, we cannot forego our processes or change the party constitution for him. He doesn’t need any declarations from the AAP,” an AAP source said.

“It will be entirely his decision to join the party. The people of Punjab will decide who their MLA and the chief minister will be,” AAP’s national spokesperson Dilip Pandey said on Thursday giving credence to reports that the Sidhus were playing hard.

Read | Sidhu will not be CM candidate, declare Punjab AAP leaders

Senior AAP leaders in Punjab differ strongly on whether the party should declare a CM candidate, or not.

But with reports from Punjab suggesting that the delay in inducting Sidhu will affect the AAP’s popularity, the party brass began course correction on Thursday night. It appointed Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh, who is a survivor of the anti-Sikh violence of 1984, as joint in-charge and spokesperson for Punjab.

The Punjab unit of the party has been mired in controversies with those who have left the party in the recent past alleging that outsiders have taken complete control of the unit. A close aide of the state convenor Sucha Singh Chhottepur quit the AAP last month after being denied a ticket.

Former IFS officer, Hardip Singh Kingra, made allegations against the party high command of insulting local leaders.

Chhottepur too is upset over not getting enough of a say in sele

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

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