Joining Congress after much ado and months of dilly-dallying, the party’s “star campaigner” Navjot Singh Sidhu is reportedly back to Mumbai to complete his shoots, leaving the local Congress leadership debating if his entry days before the February 4 Assembly polls in the state would really convert into results for Congress.
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Local Congress leaders, who say he arrived late at rallies by at least four hours and refused to move without chopper and security cover, are now airing their grievances about the “extent to which they went bearing Sidhu’s tantrums for the sake of party”.
“We are just wondering if it is really going to be worth it. It was tough telling people to sit and wait when he arrived late by hours. Then, rallies were cancelled at the last minute and it was not Sidhu but us who became laughing stock in front of our voters. It is only for sake of Congress that we tolerated all his VIP tantrums, but now this must convert into results,” said a local Congress leader from Ludhiana.
In Ludhiana, Sidhu arrived late by almost five hours at rally in Jagraon on January 27. His visit to Dakha was delayed by another two hours the same day. Since his chopper did not get permission to fly back, Ludhiana rural Congress president Gurdev Lapran arranged additional security men and dropped him till Amritsar in his own vehicle. The local Congress leadership faced tough time convincing people not to leave venue and wait for Sidhu.
Then on January 29 again, Sidhu arrived late at Moga rally by at least four hours. By the time he reached Moga, people in Gill and Raikot of Ludhiana were already waiting for him for over four hours. All arrangements done and stage set, it was announced after four hours that rally stood cancelled. “The chopper was not able to fly from Moga to Ludhiana due to some reasons. He was offered a ride by road, but he refused. So we had to cancel the rallies at Gill and Raikot,” said a Congress leader.
The rally in Ludhiana East, scheduled for January 30, was also cancelled and it finally happened on February 2, the last day of campaigning.
“Only we know how we managed to convince Sidhu to move to the venue on February 2 too. His chopper landed, but police did not send security cover. He refused to budge and come out of chopper without security. It was only after an hour of talks that he agreed to do the rally. Otherwise, it was almost cancelled,” said a Congress leader. “He was not able to hold a rally in my area as there were some issues with his chopper. It was cancelled. We apologised to people who waited for over four hours,” said Kuldeep Singh Vaid, Congress candidate from Gill.
The party leaders are now wondering if it was all worth it. “More than our own leaders, we have invested our time and energy in bearing tantrums of a new entrant. It has been more of a headache. Then, rallies of our own leaders, Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, were cancelled in Ludhiana. This district has maximum 14 seats, but the high command did not take it seriously. Even Captain Amarinder’s road show was cancelled here. This may cost us heavily,” said another Congress leader. The phone of Navjot Kaur Sidhu was switched off and Navjot Singh Sidhu did not respond to calls and messages. His team confirmed he is off to Mumbai.