Cricketer-turned-Bharatiya Janata Party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who quit as Rajya Sabha MP on Monday, is all set to join the Aam Aadmi Party which could be a shot in the arm for the party's prospects in the Punjab assembly polls slated next year.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hailed Sidhu's resignation from the Upper House, saying it requires courage to give up a Rajya Sabha membership to "save" his state.
"People can give their rt hand for an RS seat. Ever seen a sitting RS MP resigning to save his state? I salute Sidhu ji for his courage," Kejriwal, who is currently touring Punjab, tweeted.
Top AAP sources said the 52-year-old politician will join the party in a few days' time. There was speculation that Sidhu may be in the race for AAP's chief ministerial candidate in the state.
AAP's senior leader and party's Punjab affairs in-charge, Sanjay Singh said "Navjot Singh Sidhu has taken a brave step by resigning from membership of Rajya Sabha and I welcome his decision. The official announcement will be done at the right time.
"In the war between the dharma and adharma, he will come along. It's a good sign that righteous forces are coming together," he said, adding that Sidhu and his wife have been consistently raising voice against the drug mafia, about the plight of farmers and other issues concerning the welfare of the people.
Party sources said the parlays with Sidhu, who was also upset with the BJP, were on for the past few months and he will join the party soon.
Sidhu's wife, who is a BJP MLA from Amritsar (Rural) is also expected to follow suit.
However, the party is still tight-lipped over declaring him as its chief ministerial face.
Sidhu's decision came on a day when AAP chief Kejriwal is touring Punjab as part of the party's intense push to capture power in the northern state by defeating the incumbent SAD-BJP alliance and Congress in a triangular contest. He is also expected to meet Kejriwal soon.
His wife, Navjot Kaur, who is chief parliamentary secretary in Punjab, had created a flutter on April 1 (April Fool’s day) announcing her resignation from the BJP.
“The burden is over,” she had written on her Facebook post on April 1, but after a meeting with top BJP leaders in Delhi, she said, “All is well” and she is very much a part of BJP in Punjab.
Both Sidhu and his wife share an uneasy relationship with the Akali leadership and have made open attacks on Akali Dal and its leadership on governance issues.
With speculation rife over the issue, the AAP said in Chandigarh that it would welcome Sidhu with open arms if he joins the party.
“If he joins our party, we will welcome him with open arms,” the AAP’s Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann who is also party’s campaign committee chairman, said.
When asked if Sidhu has approached AAP or vice versa, Mann said that is not the case so far. “He has not got in touch with us nor have we got into touch with him,” he said.
Asked if Sidhu could be made AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in case he decides to take the plunge, Mann said, “Whoever joins AAP, he is clearly told that it has to be unconditional.
“Even when I had joined AAP, I had said that I will be happy if I am assigned just the duty of pasting posters of the party. I want to make it clear that there is no race for any post in our party... the CM candidate will be decided by the party,” he said.
“But as party’s campaign committee chairman, I want to say that our doors are open. Sidhu is a good orator with a clean image, who has also remained a star campaigner of his party. May be now, he finds that he does not enjoy that much freedom to express himself (in BJP),” Mann said.
Mann said AAP has promised to give a viable political alternative to the people of Punjab in the 2017 assembly elections. If people like Sidhu join the AAP it will be good for the party, he said.
He also said, “From time to time, Sidhu’s (MLA) wife (Navjot Kaur) has been raising questions on policies and programmes of the SAD-BJP government including on the drug issue...”
Image: Navjot Singh Sidhu arrives at Parliament house on the opening day of the Monsoon session in New Delhi. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI