In a jolt to the BJP ahead of the Punjab assembly elections, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday resigned from the Rajya Sabha and hit out at the party, claiming it was preventing him from working for the welfare of the state.
Amid buzz over Sidhu possibly moving to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), party chief Arvind Kejriwal commended Sidhu’s decision to quit the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
“People can give their rt hand for an RS seat. Ever seen a sitting RS MP resigning to save his state? I salute Sidhu ji for his courage (sic),” AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal tweeted late on Monday evening.
Sidhu announced his resignation from the post while stepping away from a more prominent role within the BJP and its preparations for the Punjab assembly polls.
Explaining his reasons, the 52-year-old said he was stepping down for the greater good of Punjab.
“…With the closure of every window leading to Punjab, the purpose (of being an MP) stands defeated. It is now a mere burden, I prefer not to carry it… In the war of right or wrong, you cannot afford to be neutral. I can’t be self-centred, Punjab’s interest is paramount,” he said in a statement.
Sidhu’s surprise stroke is a culmination of his tense equation with the BJP since he was denied a ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar, a constituency he has represented thrice as the Sikh face of the saffron party.
The AAP hailed the cricketer-turned-BJP leader for his “brave” step, with the party’s Punjab in-charge, Sanjay Singh extending a welcome if Sidhu was interested.
“A big role awaits Sidhu in AAP,” he said.
The BJP leader’s move is also significant considering his politician wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu earlier advocated a split from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP’s coalition partner in the state.
The SAD, though, was quick to dismiss the resignation, stating it would not affect the SAD-BJP combine.
“Whether the Sidhu couple goes to Aam Aadmi Party or khaas aadmi party, it would have no bearing on the outcome of the results of assembly polls next year,” deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal said.
However, both the BJP and SAD appeared bitter over what is being perceived as a betrayal.
“Party has (given) him recognition, name and fame. BJP workers made him MP for three times and nominated to Rajya Sabha. Let people decide has he done right or wrong,” Tarun Chugh, the BJP national secretary said.
The SAD’s secretary, Daljit Singh Cheema, also added, “Parties can’t give honour bigger than what Sidhu got. He became three times MP and fourth time he was sent to Rajya Sabha. These are signs of opportunism, when in want of something bigger he is ditching his party.”
While speculation peaks over Sidhu joining AAP, his wife, who is a BJP MLA from Amritsar (Rural), is also expected to follow suit soon.