26 Jul 2016

‘I quit because BJP asked me to keep off Punjab’

All for Punjab Former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday PTI

Sidhu slams ruling party, parries queries on joining AAP

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday issued an angst-filled statement targeting the BJP for keeping him away from Punjab politics but refrained from commenting on his much-speculated entry into the AAP.

“I quit the Rajya Sabha because I was told that I cannot look at Punjab and will have to keep away from it. No dharma is bigger than Punjab for me,” he said, calling the State his nation from which he cannot keep away.

Parrying questions on AAP, Sidhu focused on his role in winning different elections for the BJP. To a direct question about whether he will join the AAP or wants to be the chief ministerial candidate for the Punjab Assembly elections due early next year, Sidhu said: “You will find Sidhu standing wherever the interests of Punjab are served. I have said what I had to. Navjot Singh Sidhu always wanted to serve Punjab and Amritsar.”

The biggest hurdle for Sidhu in continuing his political career and contesting elections is a culpable homicide case pending in the Supreme Court. He has been convicted and sentenced under section 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in this case, which pertains to the death of Patiala resident Gurnam Singh in 1988.

But his conviction was stayed by the Supreme Court with senior BJP leader and now Finance Minister Arun Jaitley acting as his biggest defender in and outside the court. With Jaitley’s backing, Sidhu was again given the BJP ticket for Amritsar in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. However, if the apex court verdict is reversed, Sidhu cannot contest elections.

Another dimension of his switch to the AAP is that Arvind Kejriwal is not too keen on projecting two people from the same family in one election. If Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur, who is a fiercely articulate MLA and Chief Parliamentary Secretary in the present Punjab government, also switches sides and joins AAP, she is also a candidate for the party ticket. Under such circumstances, it is not clear whether Sidhu will remain merely a campaigner for AAP or will actually contest the elections as an undeclared chief ministerial candidate for the debutant party.

Meanwhile, AAP is happy with his public tirade against the BJP, where he said he quit the Rajya Sabha as BJP had asked him to stay away from Punjab.

Asserting that he will choose Punjab a “hundred times” above any party or family, he said the BJP plucked him out of Punjab after using his popularity to win elections several times.

Sidhu said he fought in 2004 on the request of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and won the Amritsar seat with over 1 lakh margin. He won it twice more, including in 2009, when he was the only party MP among the 50-51 seats in the plains of North India, he added.

“When storms were blowing, then Navjot Singh Sidhu was sent... Now when there was a wave in support of Modi sahab, I was drowned along with rivals,” he lamented.

Jaitley had contested from Amritsar in 2014 but lost to senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh.

Asked if he wants to be the CM candidate now, Sidhu said his priority is to serve Punjab.

“I said I will not fight. I have no wish for any post but I will not break the trust of those who made me an MP from Amritsar and have the highest honour in 21 generations. Now you tell me that I should leave Punjab. Tell me what my sin is,” he asked, speaking about his disenchantment with the BJP.‘Doors of Cong open’

PTI reports that reacting to Sidhu’s statement, Congress leader Amarinder Singh today questioned the BJP’s silence on the issue.

Earlier, he told a press conference that the doors of the Congress are open to the 52-year-old leader, adding that there is no disagreement in the party over inviting Sidhu to join it.
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