Both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress were trying to catch him. But cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s condition of “only alliance, not merger” is turning out to be the deal-breaker.
Sidhu-led Awaaz-e-Punjab front, which held another meeting at his Delhi residence on Wednesday, decided against diluting the condition. The meeting was attended by independent MLAs from Ludhiana Balwinder and Simarjeet Bains, former Olympian and Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh and Sidhu’s MLA wife Dr Navjot Kaur, who recently resigned from the BJP.
However, neither the AAP nor the Congress have so far agreed to Sidhu’s rider. While Arvind Kejriwal’s party has read Sidhu the rulebook — its party’s constitution does not allow an alliance — the former BJP MP had ruffled the feathers of Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, who has now put his own condition to match Sidhu’s condition of “no truck with Amarinder-led Congress”. Amarinder has said the Awaaz-e-Punjab can merge into the Congress unconditionally while ruling out an alliance. After calling the Sidhu couple as “undisciplined” on Sunday, he welcomed all “anti-Badal forces, including Sidhu, to embrace the Congress unconditionally” on Thursday at Amritsar.
But Simarjeet Bains questioned Amarinder’s locus standi to set conditions. “Captain first called us a tonga party of just four people. He also said we have no political equity. Amarinder is frustrated with behind-the-curtain talks between Sidhu and the Congress high command. They have sent us a proposal without keeping Punjab leaders, including him and Asha Kumari (Punjab affairs in-charge) in the loop. But we are in no rush. We will ally with the AAP or Congress, but not merge our front into their parties,” Bains told HT.
On why is the Awaaz-e-Punjab harping on an alliance, he said an ally can prevent the parties from taking anti-Punjab decisions. “If we merge into the AAP or the Congress, we will have no say in their policies and decisions. The whole idea of floating a forum for Punjab and Punjabis will be defeated,” Bains added.
Though Captain is wooing Pargat Singh, he believes the former hockey captain would need a change of seat to be able to win. The former CM also does not see younger Bains brother, Simarjeet, winning his Atam Nagar seat in Ludhiana nor Sidhu’s wife winning her Amritsar East seat. In fact, after Dr Navjot Kaur’s exit, the Akalis are learnt to be eager to swap her seat with ally BJP.
The Bains brothers, Pargat and Dr Navjot Kaur also have their compulsions. None of them would like to be locked in a four-cornered contest with the AAP, Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance. Who will win this game of wits will depend on who blinks first.
‘Alliance’ offer to Sidhu front from Cong top brass
JALANDHAR: Awaaz-e-Punjab member and Jalandhar Cantt MLA Pargat Singh said Navjot Singh Sidhu was in talks with the Congress high command. “But it is clear that we won’t merge our forum into any party,” he told HT, adding that he would meet Sidhu in Delhi on Friday. Though Pargat admitted that poll strategist Prashant Kishor was playing a key role in the talks, he refused to elaborate details. Sources said Awaaz-e-Punjab leaders are likely to discuss the latest “alliance” offer by the Congress high command to the front on Friday. Pargat also met Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi in Patiala with a “special message from Sidhu”, added sources.