Sidhu floats new party in Punjab, breakaway AAP group likely to join hands

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and former SAD legislator Pargat Singh have formed the Awaaz-e-Punjab, a political outfit ahead of the state elections next year.
Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses a press conference in New Delhi.(PTI File)
Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses a press conference in New Delhi.(PTI File)
Updated on Sep 02, 2016 11:02 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Ravinder Vasudeva and Chitleen K Sethi, Jalandhar/chandigarh

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu floated a new party to fight elections in Punjab next year, a surprise move on a day that also saw a vertical split in the state unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Sidhu joined hands with three top voices against the state’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance -- former India hockey captain and suspended Akali MLA Pargat Singh and Ludhiana-based powerful independent state lawmakers and brothers Simarjeet and Balwinder Singh Bains.

Sidhu’s Awaaze-e-Punjab, or the voice of Punjab, will likely shake up the state’s political landscape so far dominated by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Read | Nowhere Man: Sidhu left hanging after Kejriwal’s blunt message

The move sets at rest speculations that Sidhu and Pargat might join the AAP, which aims to end a decade of Akali-BJP rule in the state, but has been struggling with a crisis over the removal of its local convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur for alleged corruption.

On a day Simarjeet Bains announced Awaaze-e-Punjab will contest all 117 seats in the state, seven of the 13 zone coordinators of AAP’s Punjab unit broke away from the party and announced their support for Chhotepur. AAP rebel sources said Chhotepur might join hands with Sidhu’s party.

“Ours is AAP Punjab and has nothing to do with the party led by Arvind Kejriwal,” said JS Dhaliwal, zone coordinator, Anandpur Sahib. He said Chhotepur will soon announce AAP Punjab candidates for the elections.

Read | Sukhbir shoots himself in the foot by suspending Pargat, Bolaria

The new party is a surprise stroke from Sidhu and is seen as the culmination of his tense equation with the BJP, which he quit last month. He has been a three-time MP of the party from Amritsar.

Sidhu’s rivals sought to play down the development.

“We have learnt that Sidhu has formed a political front. It is up to him to comment whether they will launch a party or not,” said AAP’s Punjab state in-charge Sanjay Singh.

Read | Navjot Sidhu says he quit RS for being asked to stay away from Punjab

The Akali Dal said Sidhu’s new front indicated “utter confusion in opposition ranks” and that it is a “rebuff to those like Captain Amaridner Singh and AAP” who were bending over backwards to “beg support of political castaways”.

Read more | Sidhu’s resignation can change electoral dynamics in Punjab

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