Two Akali MLAs join Congress; Amarinder says met Sidhu

New Delhi, Dec 6 (IANS) As two legislators from Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal joined the Congress on Tuesday, Congress state unit chief Amarinder Singh said cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu met him and “gave an impression he is inclined to support our party”.

The two Akali members of the state assembly (MLAs) who joined the Congress are Rajinder Kaur Bhagike from Nihal Singh Wala and Mahesh Inder Singh from Baghapurana.

Amarinder Singh, a former Chief Minister, said the party’s list of candidates for the 2017 assembly elections will be finalsed by December 8, and announced on December 9 or 10.

“I met him (Sidhu). I can tell that much. I hope he’ll very soon make an announcement about what he wishes to do. I found him in a very positive frame of mind. I hope it’ll be a positive decision,” Amarinder Singh said, without revealing when the meeting took place.

“The impression I got, without any commitment from his side, is that he is inclined towards supporting us. I can’t tell you about his joining,” he said.

Amarinder Singh said Sidhu told him his family had supported the Congress in the past and that his father was a district Congress President and remained an Advocate General during the Congress rule in the state.

Asked what does the former cricketer want from the Congress, Amarinder said: “He doesn’t want anything. He just has to make up his mind on whether he would like to carry on with what he is doing or whether he wants to come…”

“…no assurance from his side, but certainly I feel the way he was talking, he would like to campaign for the Congress or work for the Congress. But this he has to announce himself,” he added.

On whether Sidhu will contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha by-poll, Amarinder Singh said: “That will be the Congress president’s decision. I don’t think Navjot is interested. It’s for him to say, but I don’t think he is interested.”

Navjot Singh Sidhu had earlier represented Amritsar constituency in the Lok Sabha. Amarinder Singh won the seat in the 2014 general elections by defeating the present Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, but resigned from the Lok Sabha membership on November 11 in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict on a Presidential Reference on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.

Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who represented Amritsar East constituency in the Punjab assembly and is a former Chief Parliamentary Secretary, joined the Congress on November 28 along with Akali Dal’s Jalandhar Cantt legislator Pargat Singh.

Navjot Kaur earlier resigned from the Bharatiya Janata Party on October 8.

Asked if Navjot Singh Sidhu will contest the assembly elections, the Punjab Congress President said: “If he is not fighting parliamentary elections, why should he fight the assembly ones? I don’t think he is interested… his wife will fight.”

“If he wishes to contest, I will welcome that. I’ll campaign for him. Why should I oppose,” Amarinder Singh said.

Asked if Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s much-awaited elevation as party President will help, the Punjab Congress chief said: “Of course. Why is the Bharatiya Janata Party attacking him every day? Because they are nervous about his emergence (as the Congress chief). Let him come. It will certainly help.”

–IANS

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