CHANDIGARH: Former opening batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu’s political outfit Awaaz-ePunjab and the Congress seem to be inching closer to a tie-up that has the potential to change equations in Punjab ahead of the key assembly polls early next year.Sources told TOI that Sidhu wanted between 25 and 31 seats for his supporters during negotiations held in Delhi on Thursday. The Punjab assembly has 117 seats. Congress, however, is believed to have convinced him to bring the number down to between seven and 13 seats.Sources said Congress was ready to offer Sidhu the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat when Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh makes it to the state assembly. Sidhu had won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat thrice before it was given to Arun Jaitleyin 2014. In one of the biggest defeats amid a Modi wave, Amarinder had defeated Jaitley . “It’s essential that Congress gets firepower from Sidhu and his team. We are hoping for a push from his outfit. There are minor differences on seat-sharing and party symbol. We are trying to sort them out. We have told Sidhu that he can contest from Amritsar,” said a Congress leader. Amarinder has surprised everyone by changing his stance on Awaaze-Punjab and welcoming Sidhu. Two weeks ago he had taken a dig at Awaaz-e-Punjab by describing it as a ‘tonga party’. On Thursday, Amarinder said, “Not just Sidhu but all those who are committed to Punjab’s governance, whichever party they may belong to, are welcome to join the Congress unconditionally.”
Akali Dal secretary and spokesman Dr Daljit Singh Cheema reacted sharply and said that Congress’s top leadership has understood the real situation in Punjab but Ama rinder hasn’t stopped day dreaming. “From day-to-day developments and U-turns by Capt Amarinder Singh, it has become abundantly clear that he is being compelled to effect decisions taken by Rahul Gandhi,” Cheema said.Awaaz-e-Punjab member and independent Ludhiana MLA Simarjit Bains con firmed that “talks between Sidhu and Delhi Congress leaders were at an advanced l stage” but added that their front would contest on their own symbol.
“Congress is a good party but we need clean faces if we have to contest polls together.We want certain of our own men in the fray . No party is bad. It’s the people who get elected that are bad. Akali Dal wasn’t bad either but now it is saddled with corrupt leaders. We have given the number of seats where we want good candidates to fight for us. We don’t want to risk losing credibility with a hasty decision,” said Bains.