It’s a shot he seldom played when he opened the batting for India. He was known more for stepping out and hitting out. But Navjot Singh Sidhu on Wednesday hit his latest reverse sweep on the political pitch! Ending his latest silence over his political future, the former BJP MP declared that the forum ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ that he had launched earlier this month will not be a political party. And it’s open to allying with anyone to break the “Badal-Amarinder nexus”.
While this rules out any alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Congress led by its state unit chief Capt Amarinder Singh, Sidhu’s wife and namesake, sitting BJP MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu also ruled out any truck with the BJP.
The former cricketer, who recently resigned from the BJP, issued a statement that read, “We will not play spoilsport.... We shall not confuse the people of Punjab but give them clarity to vote in Punjab’s interest. We will not divide the anti-incumbency vote bank which could benefit the corroborative and collusive Badal-Amarinder nexus which has plundered Punjab in the last 15 years. This will defeat our purpose of bringing a change for the betterment of Punjab.”
About his allies, he said, “The launch of the ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ forum had a rousing response in Punjab. Some speculative, some putting two and two together, but the majority towards fighting elections [in] Punjab. The Bains brothers (independent MLAs Balwinder and Simarjeet) have roared like lions and wanted to fight 117 seats in Punjab. Hockey legend (and SAD MLA) Pargat Singh the ‘Eternal Optimist’ was in the affirmative. I have pondered over the fluid political situation in Punjab, weighed the pros and cons and come to (a) conclusive decision.” The Bains brothers later told HT that they “fully support” Sidhu’s decision, while Pargat too said, “Sidhu is our leader and whatever decision he has taken is backed by me and the others. At this stage, formation of a new party will benefit the Akali-BJP combine. We will support the party that has the vision for a better Punjab.”
As for the AAP, at the launch of the forum on September 8, Sidhu had said he had broken off talks with the party as it did not want him to contest the assembly polls. He had said, “I asked him (Kejriwal) to define my role in the party. He said I should not contest elections, only campaign in Punjab, while my wife will contest and be made a minister. I left immediately. Later, my wife asked me, ‘Why is he so insecure that he prefers a one-time MLA to contest polls and not a four-time MP?’” Sidhu’s attack on the AAP had come when the rookie party was fresh in a crisis after the sacking of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who was later tipped to join the Sidhu-Bains-Pargat grouping.
But, in his statement on Wednesday, Sidhu did not mention the AAP. Instead, he gave an assessment of his forum’s chances: “Success does not come overnight... The minimum time taken by a new party to win a state is almost 2 years, ample testimony to the fact that three months is too short a time for this herculean task.” Elections in the state are expected at the beginning of next year.
He reiterated that, for him, “our battle is to shake the system that has ruined Punjab”. Politics is not a profession but a mission for him, he declared, and added, “There is no personal or political vendetta, just a burning desire to place Punjab ahead of us and reinforce the positive forces. The forum welcomes any alliance for the betterment of Punjab and will not be a political party. May Punjab, Punjabiat and every Punjabi win.”
His wife said “a lot of thought process went into this decision”, and that Sidhu, who is in Delhi, will come to Punjab on October 1 “and start meeting people”.
On her husband Navjot Singh Sidhu’s declaration that he won’t convert his forum ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ into a party, BJP MLA Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu said the forum is open to alliance “with any party other than the SAD and BJP”.
She did not rule out any alliance with the Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party, with which the Sidhus were in talks to join. However, this was different from what the husband said. He termed his decision an effort to defeat the “nexus” of CM Parkash Singh Badal and state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh.
Dr Sidhu added that the statement not to form a party was issued “because a lot of things were said that ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ is B-team of the BJP.” AAP leader Jarnail Singh had, in fact, called the forum B-team of the BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS.
“This forum will watch all political parties and any party that has a good manifesto and also stands by the people of Punjab... [and] alliance will be made with that party. But no alliance will be made with SAD-BJP,” she stressed.
Amarinder, who has been taking jibes at Sidhu and on Wednesday called him “better suited to comedy shows, had earlier invited him to join the Congress.