Sidhu marks ‘ghar wapsi’ to Cong, says Punjab polls will throw out Badals

A day after his formal induction into the party, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu termed his joining the Congress as his “homecoming” and launched a broadside against Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

india Updated: Jan 16, 2017 14:11 IST
HT Correspondent
Navjot Singh Sidhu,Congress,BJP
Sidhu is expected to contest the February 4 Punjab assembly election from Amritsar East, part of the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency which he represented for the Bharatiya Janata Party from 2004 to 2014.(Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday termed his joining the Congress as “ghar wapasi” or homecoming.

“I am a born Congressman. This is my ghar wapsi,” the 53-year-old former BJP MP said at a news conference held to announce his formal induction into the Congress. Sidhu had met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday to join the party after months of negotiations.

“I have just come back to my roots,” he said, adding that his father Bhagwant Singh Sidhu had been a Congress legislator and a party office bearer from Patiala.

The news conference held at the Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road in Delhi was marked by his trademark Sidhuisms, an assortment of one-liners and quotes, to attack the Badals – Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“Bhaag Badal bhaag (run Badal run),” he said. “The people of Punjab are going to throw you out.”

Read | The importance of being Navjot Sidhu, his father’s son!

On being asked about his earlier attacks on Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, Sidhu said differences are part of the democracy. “If Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar can come together, why can’t I and Amarinder,” he asked. “I am fighting for Punjab and so is he.”

Asked about his “failed” talks with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the former Amritsar MP said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s party didn’t want him to contest the upcoming Punjab polls. “I could not have been a mere spectator and watch from a distance Punjab being destroyed. I had two options so I chose Congress.”

Sidhu, who was in demand as a “star vote-catcher” after he quit the Rajya Sabha in July, had vacillated in making his next move. He finally walked out of the BJP in September after months of acrimony.

But even before he quit the party, he was talking to AAP and later the Congress.

The AAP got a rude shock when Sidhu announced his political outfit, Awaaz-e-Punjab, with former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh and two others. That was in September.

Soon after, he again stared negotiating with AAP and the Congress, hoping to use Awaaz-e-Punjab as a bargaining chip.

In the meantime, his wife Navjot, who represented Amritsar East in the Punjab assembly, quit the BJP. She and Pargat joined the Congress on November 28.

Awaaz-e-Punjab soon became history and Sidhu started to flirt with AAP again. But talks with the AAP broke down again. The party offered Sidhu deputy chief minister’s post but he wanted more, AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said recently.

Asked about his differences with the BJP, Sidhu said they opted for an alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal. “I opted for Punjab,” he said, while refusing to talk on the performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his two-and-a-half years of tenure.

Read| ‘Beginning new inning on front foot’: Sidhu after joining Congress

First Published: Jan 16, 2017 12:17 IST