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Talks between former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu and Aam Aadmi Party are going on, AAP senior leader Sanjay Singh said here today, even as suspense continued over which way the cricketer-turned-politician would finally go after Congress recently maintained that it had no reservation if he joins the outfit “unconditionally”. “Talks are going on with Sidhu. There is no denying this. Talks have been underway for the past 4-5 days,” Singh told reporters here. Sources said Sidhu held a meeting with AAP’s co-in-charge and Delhi Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s confidante Durgesh Pathak here late last night.
They said former BJP MP is pushing for the deputy chief minister’s post and added that the bone of contention was also some 7-8 seats which Sidhu has demanded, including seats for Hockey Olympian Pargat Singh and two Independent legislators, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains.
They also indicated that a section in the party favoured an alliance with Sidhu’s outfit Aawaz-e-Punjab rather than the former BJP MP joining AAP. “An alliance with Sidhu’s Awaaz-e-Punjab will boost party’s prospects but giving him deputy CM’s post will not go well with the party cadre,” they said, adding, the alliance will help strike balance between the demands of the two sides.
They indicated that the party was not keen on giving him the deputy chief minister’s post but it was ready to induct his wife in the Cabinet if the AAP comes to power. “Our party constitution states that we cannot give seats to two people from one family. Since the Bains brothers are sitting MLAs, they would want tickets, a demand which we would not be able to fulfil,” the leader added.
Sidhu had last month floated his ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ forum in what many had then thought was the outcome of Sidhu’s talks with AAP having “failed” at that time. After the development, Kejriwal had said his respect for Sidhu will continue irrespective of whether “he joins (AAP) or not”, indicating that the party had not shut its doors on him. However, Sidhu had later attacked Kejriwal and dubbed AAP as “anarchy in the garb of democracy”, saying the AAP chief wanted only “yes men”.
In a clear indication that talks with the former BJP MP leader were progressing, Singh said not too much should be read into Sidhu’s utterances, asserting that the two sides were engaged in talks for a bigger cause which was how “save Punjab”. “A long time has passed (since Sidhu made these remarks), if we get involved in small things, then Punjab’s interests will take a backseat. What he has said in his speech or in his statement, that is not the issue, that is not important.
“The issue is how to save Punjab, how to save the state from corruption, from drug menace, how we will restore the lost glory of our farmers. We are thinking about this and we have to think about these issues,” Singh said. Asked if AAP has offered Sidhu the post of the Deputy Chief Minister in case the party wins next year’s Punjab polls, Singh said, “At this stage, the only thing I can say is that talks are going on.” On whether Sidhu and other members of his forum will join AAP or will there be any alliance with his forum, Singh said,
“The whole formula will be put before you. What will happen and how it will happen, all this you will come to know but wait for some time.”
Asked at what stage these talks were, he said, “They are currently on, but I cannot tell you at what stage these are. When we take a final decision, it will be made public”. Praising the role played by Sidhu in raising a voice for what was right, Singh said, “And in this (their effort to save Punjab), there are some people who have played a role for state’s betterment, our effort is that all such people should join hands. This is a fight for justice and all such forces should come together.”
“In the interests of Punjab, all those people we need to talk to, we will do that,” he added. “We will make honest efforts for it but what the result will be, this only time will tell. We have not set any time frame for these talks (with Sidhu) but when we make any final decision, we will make it public,” he said.
Asked if Sidhu was an important factor for Punjab, Singh said, “Look, he and his wife (Navjot Kaur, who was BJP MLA from Amritsar-East) raised their voice on issues concerning people, they raised voice against the Badals and how they were plundering the state”.
On Sidhu reportedly also negotiating with Congress, Singh replied, “It will be better if you put this to question to Sidhu or Congress…but as far as our talks are concerned, they focus on common issues of how to save Punjab…” To another question, Singh said the upcoming Punjab polls will be fought under Kejriwal’s leadership.
Replying to another query, he said, AAP has no problem in inducting the members of Sidhu’s Awaaz-e-Punjab forum. Regarding Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav’s claim that AAP’s graph had gone down in Punjab, Singh said, “AAP will win more than 100 seats and SAD-BJP will be completely wiped out.” “What we did in Delhi, history will repeat itself in Punjab. People are wise, they know that many forces have taken (electoral) plunge which will try to create obstacle but these forces will face defeat,” he said.
On if Kejriwal will contest from Punjab, Singh said, “These are your speculations.” He also hit out at the ruling Akalis who have claimed that AAP will fail to create an impression in the upcoming Punjab polls and took a dig at those alleging that the AAP government in Delhi had failed to deliver on its promises. “In Delhi, all that we had promised in our manifesto, we have worked to fulfill them. We had promised to make power cheaper by half, we promised free water, we talked about Mohalla Clinics, we did all this.
“We improved standard of education in government schools, installed CCTV cameras in buses for women’s secuirty, ended Raid Raj and Inspector Raj, odd-even formula became a worldwide hit. Our work speaks for itself. Earlier, people used to say learn from (developed nations like) the US, now world is saying learn from Kejriwal and AAP,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, interacting with reporters in Gurdaspur on the sidelines of his Sangat Darshan programme today, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal hit out at Sidhu, saying he was “indecisive about joining any party because he was trying to strike a deal which suits his own interest”. “Rather than pursuing the politics of opportunism by negotiating favorable deals with political parties, Sidhu should better sit at home,” Badal said.
Badal further noted that “people who have no stand on any issue were bound to go in political oblivion…wise people of the state were totally against those who ditch their mother party and (they) will teach Sidhu a befitting lesson. The person who has backstabbed his mother party can never be sincere to the people.”
On a possibility that Sidhu may join Congress, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had yesterday said Sidhu is a “human bomb” and “would explode once he entered Congress”.