Sidhu likely to ditch Congress for AAP ahead of 2022 Punjab polls

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BY ANAND SINGH
New Delhi, June 3 (IANS)
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which debuted in the Punjab Assembly polls in 2017, is trying to woo cricketer-turned-politician and former Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu ahead of the assembly elections in the state in 2022.
While messages sent to Sidhu for comments remained unanswered, AAP’s Punjab in-charge Jarnail Singh told IANS, “Those who are willing to join the party with honest intentions are welcome, be it Sidhu.”
However, he said that he was not aware as to who were holding talks with the Congress leader.
According to sources, election strategist Prashant Kishor is working behind the scenes to get Sidhu into the AAP fold.
A top source close to Sidhu told IANS that on Tuesday evening during a WhatsApp call and exchange of messages with Kishor, Sidhu discussed the terms and conditions to join the AAP.
According to the source, Sidhu categorically asked Kishor to mediate to define his role in the party and also asked whether he will be the chief ministerial candidate and on how many seats he will have the power to select his candidates.
In March, AAP’s Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann had said that if Sidhu decides to join the party, he would be the first to welcome him.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the Congress swept to power in Punjab by defeating the Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP. In the 117-member state Assembly, Congress had won 77 seats, followed by debutant AAP (20), SAD (15), BJP (3) and Lok Insaaf Party (2).
Sidhu, who joined the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls in 2017, has been at loggerheads with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for some time now. He had resigned from the Punjab Cabinet last year.
Meanwhile, multiple sources in the Congress confirmed that Amarinder Singh had also approached Kishor to take up the party’s campaign for the 2022 Assembly polls in January this year.
One of the sources disclosed that even Suresh Kumar, the Chief Principal Secretary to the Punjab Chief Minister, had met Kishor on behalf of Amarinder Singh.
“During the meeting, Kishor had categorically said ‘no’ to the offer, as the state government did not fulfil the promises made to the people in 2017. Kishor also said that the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) did not need to work in bits and pieces in the states,” the source said.
The source further said that Sandeep Sandhu, the political advisor to Amarinder Singh and the General Secretary of Punjab Congress, called up all the MLAs in the last one week to support Kishor.
The source also said that Amarinder Singh has written to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to rope in Kishor for the 2022 Assembly polls.
The source further disclosed that Kishor is not willing to take up the Congress offer as AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already roped him in for AAP’s campaign in Punjab and Delhi.
Kishor had designed Amarinder Singh’s poll strategy ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, weaving it around the senior Congress leader’s popularity in the state.
Messages to Kishor, however, remained unanswered.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

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