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Sidhu, Sukhbir to campaign jointly

The BJP MP and SAD general secretary are to jointly undertake a 10-day yatra in Punjab, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2006 21:10 IST

They are not exactly "untainted" but they will be their parties' star campaigners. Former cricketer and BJP MP Navjyot Singh Sidhu and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) general secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal are to jointly undertake a 10-day yatra all over Punjab as part of a high-voltage poll campaign by the two parties, beginning from Amritsar on January 15.

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Billed as the "Youth for Change" yatra, the two leaders will visit every district in Punjab to focus attention on the incumbent Amarinder Singh government's performance and actions including alleged political vendetta.

Sidhu, a former cricketer and BJP's Lok Sabha MP from Amritsar, was recently sentenced to three years' rigorous imprisonment in a road rage incident.

Sukhbir Singh Badal is the son of SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and his political successor. Badal senior faces several corruption cases filed against him and his family by the Congress government in the state.

Top SAD and BJP leaders met at the residence of BJP president Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to finalise their election strategy, which will involve, besides the yatra, holding a "massive rally" of traders at Ludhiana on January 9 and deputing BJP cadres from Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana in work in Punjab districts close to them.

Besides the BJP president, party general secretary Arun Jaitley and BJP in charge for Punjab RP Singh were present in the day's meeting. Badal and his son led the SAD side.

BJP's RP Singh said BJP workers from Rajasthan would work in Abohar and Fazilka, those from Himachal Pradesh in Hoshiarpur and Ropar, those from Jammu and Kashmir in Pathankot and Patiala and those from Haryana in Bathinda areas. 

Prakash Singh Badal said his party had very a "good understanding" with BJP and would work together. He ruled out any problem in reaching a seat sharing accord with the BJP though Wednesday's meeting did not discuss on this issue.

Asked about the BJP's harping on the Muslim appeasement issue, Badal said the Sikh religion treated every human being as equal and his party would not have problems.

RP Singh said the seat-sharing arrangement would be made public as soon as the Election Commission announced the dates.

BJP sources said the SAD and BJP leaders have agreed to stick to the formula followed in the last elections held in 2002. The BJP, which wanted to contest more seats, will have to be content with fielding nominees for 23 seats in urban areas while the SAD will contest 94 seats. The BJP had won two seats and the SAD 40 in the last polls held in Punjab that has a House of 117 seats.