Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi welcomes Navjot Singh Sidhu into the INC. (EPS)
CHANDIGARH: Cricketer-turned-Politician Navjot Singh Sidhu joined the Congress on Sunday, giving the party a major boost ahead of the Assembly elections in Punjab.
According to sources, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh is likely to contest against chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi and Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu will be fielded against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal from Jalalabad.
The former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu was formally inducted into the Congress by the vice-president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Sunday. Sidhu who is known for his wit and humour will also be the star campaigner of the party in the Assembly elections in the State. He will contest from Amritsar (East) Assembly seat where his wife is the sitting MLA presently.
Sources claimed that Sidhu’s delay in joining the Congress officially was due to astrological reasons and that he was warned against joining the party before Makar Sankranti.
Also Capt Amarinder spoke to Sidhu on phone to welcome him into the partyfold, saying it was great news and his joining would further strengthen the Congress in Punjab in the run-up to the State Assembly elections. Elected as an MP from Amritsar on a BJP ticket in 2004, Sidhu resigned due to a murder case against him but again successfully contested the by-election and won. Consecutively for the third time, he retained the seat 2009 from the holy city.
In April last year, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, but resigned from the position on July 18. He formally resigned from the BJP on September 14, following which his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu MLA from Amritsar (East) also resigned from the saffron party on October 8. Subsequently, she resigned from the Assembly.
Sidhu, then floated his political front – Awaaz-e-Punjab, along with former hockey player Pargat Singh and independent MLAs Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains from Ludhiana (Bains Brothers). But in November last year the forum broke as the Bains brothers forged an alliance with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Then on November 28, 2016, Pargat and Sidhu’s wife, Dr. Navjot Kaur Sidhu joined the Congress but the ex-cricketer could not immediately follow suit because of certain professional commitments.
Sources claimed that Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh will contest against Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi constituency as earlier Amarinder had sought the party high command’s permission to fight the coming Assembly elections from Badal’s constituency of Lambi to ensure defeat of senior Badal. Amarinder is also contesting from Patiala (Urban) against former army chief Gen JJ Singh (Retd) who is an Akali Dal candidate.
Meanwhile, member of parliament from Ludhiana Ravneet Singh Bittu will take on Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal from Jalalabad constituency from where Sukhbir is the sitting MLA. Already, Bhagwant Mann of AAP who is the sitting MP of AAP from Sangrur is contesting against Sukhbir from Jalalabad, said sources.
Also former Olympian Pargat Singh who had left Akali Dal and joined congress will fight from his own present constituency Jalandhar Cantonment . The announcements to this effect are likely to be made very soon as January 18 is the last date for filing of nominations in Punjab.