2 Akali MLAs join Cong; Sidhu could be next, hints Amarinder
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s prospects of joining the Congress fold brightened on Tuesday with Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh announcing he has met the former BJP MP and he is “inclined” to support the party.
Congress also got a shot in its arm with two Akali legislators Mahesh Inder Singh and Rajwinder Kaur Bhagike joining the party in the presence of the PCC chief, giving a major jolt to the ruling Akali Dal in poll-bound Punjab. Sidhu is likely to join the party and assume a new role later this month after the party declares its candidates, the sources said.
The party is expected to announced its candidates on December 9 or 10, as its Central Election Committee headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is likely to meet on December 8, where the final list will be drawn up.
Top Congress leaders on Tuesday held internal consultations over selection of party candidates at the meeting of Central Screening Committee headed by former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Confirming the meeting with Sidhu, Amarinder said the former cricketer was inclined to support the Congress and would soon make an announcement regarding his plan.
“I can tell you that I have met him. I hope very soon he will be making his announcement. I found him in a very positive frame of mind. I hope it will be a positive decision,” Amarinder said.
Sidhu’s entry into Congress has been speculated for a long time now. His wife Navjot Kaur joined the party recently, giving ample indications that he would also come on board.
Asked specifically if Sidhu will be formally joining the Congress or not, the PCC chief said, “I think he will announce it himself. Let’s wait for the announcement in a few days time. But the impression I got, without any commitment from his side, is that he was inclined to support us.”
The former Punjab chief minister said he does not think that Sidhu is interested in contesting the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat and is likely to campaign for the party.
“He just has to make up his mind whether he has to carry on with his work or whether he wants to actively join politics. The way he is talking, I feel he would like to campaign for the Congress party, but that he would announce himself,” he said.
Sidhu was earlier in talks with AAP but it did not materialise leading to a split in his recently formed outfit Awaaz-E-Punjab.
Meanwhile, the two joinees Mahesh Inder Singh representing the Baghapurana Assembly seat and Rajwinder Kaur who is the sitting MLA from Nihal Singh Wala constituency, expressed their disillusionment and anger with the Akali leadership.
“We can be their loyalists but not slaves. The insult meted out to me by sending police at my residence has hit me. They think they can terrorise me. I have quit the Akali Dal not for being denied a party ticket but because of the humiliation,” Mahesh Inder Singh said.
Welcoming them into the party fold, Amarinder said this will help strengthen the Congress party ahead of the upcoming polls. He reiterated that the exodus of leaders and workers from SAD and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would further increase as the elections drew closer, especially after the imposition of the Code of Conduct in Punjab.