Sidhu’s shift­ing stand ties AAP, Cong in knots

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - NATION - Sukhdeep Kaur

CHANDI­GARH: Crick­eter-turned­politi­cian Navjot Singh Sidhu is keep­ing the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress on ten­ter­hooks over an al­liance be­fore next year’s Pun­jab polls, but his shift­ing stand may have eroded his bar­gain­ing chip.

Politi­cians think Sidhu, the for­mer BJP par­lia­men­tar­ian for Am­rit­sar who re­signed from the party in July, is us­ing his Awaaze-pun­jab as bait for a pos­si­ble tie-up with any of the two rival par­ties. But he is ap­par­ently los­ing cred­i­bil­ity be­cause of his am­biva­lence.

For a man who calls him­self a pro­tec­tor of Pun­jab’s in­ter­ests, he re­mains in­com­mu­ni­cado dur­ing shoot­ings of his comedy shows in Mum­bai and likes to en­gage the me­dia in a one-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion, is­su­ing state­ments. He meets Congress and AAP lead­ers al­ter­nately, and keeps ev­ery­body con­fused.

But both par­ties are keep­ing their doors ajar for him. Congress poll strate­gist Prashant Kishor is learnt to have told the party that Sidhu may dent the Congress’s prospects if he goes the AAP way.

Many in the rival camp hold a sim­i­lar view. They feel Sidhu’s pop­u­lar­ity can boost the Congress cam­paign at the cost of the AAP. A lobby within the Congress, which is op­pos­ing a move to make the Cap­tain the party’s nom­i­nee for the chief minister’s post, is back­ing Sidhu. But Sidhu’s fo­rum, which he launched early this month, has set riders for the Congress, say­ing there can’t be a truck as long as Cap­tain Amarinder Singh is with the party.

“This game of play­ing one against the other will not work. Do they think the Congress pres­i­dent will throw me out of the party so that they can ally with the Awaaz-e-pun­jab?” Amarinder Singh said. Sidhu’s ri­valry with the Cap­tain goes a long way; ap­par­ently the for­mer chief minister didn’t play a favourable role when the for­mer bats­man was con­victed in a road rage death in 2006.

For its part, the AAP is in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. Its lead­ers HS Phoolka and Gur­preet Singh Ghuggi want Sidhu, but oth­ers such as par­lia­men­tar­ian Bhag­want Mann are not keen.


Congress V-P Rahul Gandhi in Guwahati.

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