PunjabPolls | Navjot Singh Sidhu joins Congress, meets Rahul Gandhi


Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has joined the Indian National Congress ahead of assembly elections in Punjab after yet another meeting with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who welcomed him into the party. The 58-year-old had quit the BJP in September 2016, complaining that he had been sidelined.

Mr Sidhu came on board after lengthy negotiations and several rounds of meetings with Mr Gandhi. His wife Navjot Kaur said he would be contesting from the Amritsar East seat. Sources also said he would get one ticket per family for some of his supporters. As one of the party’s star campaigner, he would also address more than 70 rallies.

It was, however, not clear that Mr Sidhu would be offered the post of the deputy Chief Minister, as he had earlier demanded.

The meeting with Rahul Gandhi, the second in four days, during which the Congress vice-president welcomed him into the party. Within minutes, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted, “INC welcomes S.Navjot Singh Sidhu & thanks Rahul Gandhiji for bringing likeminded leaders under the Congress umbrella”.

Mr Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur has already been fielded as a candidate, but the constituency is yet to be decided.

Election will be held in Punjab on February 4, in which the Congress, which has been out of power for a decade, has been hoping for big gains. Captain Singh, who is leading the Congress campaign in the state and denied rumours about being unenthusiastic about having Mr Sidhu on board, today said he had spoken to the former cricketer on phone.

Regarding Mr Sidhu’s demand for the post of the deputy Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, the presumptive Chief Minister, said a decision will be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mr Gandhi at an “appropriate time”.

The ruling Akali-BJP combine took potshots at the Congress and Mr Sidhu. Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal asked how he could join a party that “attacked the Golden Temple”.

Mr Sidhu, who quit the BJP two months ago, had that he had been forced to give up his Amritsar parliamentary seat by the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had lost. Captain Amarinder Singh, who won, has vacated the seat to lead the Congress campaign in the state.