Indicating an announcement soon by Navjot Singh Sidhu on his role in the Congress, the party’s Punjab unit president Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said the decision on whether to contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll had been left to the cricketer-turned-politician.
Welcoming into the party four new members, including two MLAs of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Amarinder said in an official release that he had met Sidhu and “got the impression” that he would be campaigning in the assembly polls due early next year, but the final call on contesting or not is his.
Amarinder said that while the decision on ticket allocation is the prerogative of party president Sonia Gandhi, he would be happy to campaign for Sidhu’s wife, Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, “if she gets the ticket for Amritsar East assembly segment”. He added that all candidates for the 117-member assembly will be announced after December 8, for when the next meeting of the Congress election committee is scheduled.
About Sidhu, he was quoted as saying by news agency IANS: “I hope he’ll very soon make an announcement about what he wishes to do. I found him in a very positive frame of mind. I hope it’ll be a positive decision.” He did not reveal when the meeting took place.
Amarinder said Sidhu told him his family had supported the Congress in the past and that his father was a district Congress president and remained an advocate general during the Congress rule in the state.
Asked what does the former cricketer want from the Congress, Amarinder said: “He doesn’t want anything. He just has to make up his mind on whether he would like to carry on with what he is doing or whether he wants to come...”
“...no assurance from his side, but certainly I feel the way he was talking, he would like to campaign for the Congress or work for the Congress. But this he has to announce himself,” he added.
On whether Sidhu will contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha by-poll, Amarinder Singh said: “That will be the Congress president’s decision. I don’t think he is interested. It’s for him to say, but I don’t think he is interested.”
Sidhu had earlier represented Amritsar in the Lok Sabha. Amarinder won the seat in the 2014 general elections by defeating the present Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, but resigned from the LS membership on November 11 in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict on a presidential reference on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal.
Also asked if Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as president will help, the Punjab Congress chief said: “Of course. Why is the Bharatiya Janata Party attacking him every day? Because they are nervous about his emergence (as the Congress chief). Let him come. It will certainly help.”