Rajya Sabha MP Navjot Singh Sidhu has been included by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its core group for Punjab, while state minister Anil Joshi has not found place in the premier group.
Sidhu, who remained Lok Sabha MP from Amritsar three times before bowing out in favour of Arun Jaitley’s candidature, was sent to the Rajya Sabha member by the party after his wife, MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, made noises about being sidelined due to their sour equation with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the BJP’s senior ruling partner in the state. There was much speculation about the Sidhu couple possibly joining the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Sidhu was last part of the group until his term the LS member from Amritsar ended in 2014. Now, even after the cricketer-turned-politician was ‘adjusted’ in the Upper House, Navjot Kaur, and Singh too, had reiterated that he won’t campaign in the Punjab assembly elections due early next year, if the BJP continued to partner the Akalis. In that light, Sidhu finding a place in the core group raises many questions and ignites speculations.
Politically, the move is seen as involving him more in the BJP’s decision-making process for the state even as the saffron party is facing significant anti-incumbency being in a coalition government with the SAD for the past over nine years. Known for his oratorical skills, Sidhu is also being seen as a rejuvenating factor.
Sidhu’s friend-turned-foe, local bodies minister Anil Joshi, who is MLA from an assembly constituency in Amritsar, has been dropped since the high command apparently does not want a clash in the top body of the party in Punjab.
Other than Joshi, former minister Tikshan Sud, Rakesh Rathore, Jagtar Saini and former MP Gurcharan Kaur have been dropped. In all, by bringing in national leaders and dropping some local leaders, the party has tried to strengthen the group.
In the reshuffle, permanent members now include state unit president and Union minister Vijay Sampla, his predecessor Kamal Sharma, Ashwani Sharma, state minister Madan Mohan Mittal, Rajinder Bhandari, Avinash Rai Khanna, Brij Lal Rinwa and Manoranjan Kalia; national secretary Tarun Chugh, and the party’s legislature party leader Chunni Lal Bhagat.
Four special invites are all-India general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, state affairs in-charge Prabhat Jha, state general secretary (organisation) Dinesh Kumar, and another leader of the rank of national joint secretary whose name was still to be announced.