It seems only a formality now before Navjot Singh Sidhu officially joins Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
On Monday, the cricketer-turned-politician resigned from his position as BJP’s Rajya Sabha member, setting off media speculation about his imminent exit from the saffron party and entry into the rival AAP camp. Sidhu was nominated to the House of the Elders by Prime Minister Modi just three months back.
Reactions from AAP leaders left little doubt that Sidhu was indeed set to join the party, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal even ‘saluting’ the former Amritsar MP for his ‘courageous’ decision to resign.
It is being speculated that Sidhu will join AAP along with his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu. Navjot Kaur, despite being the Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Health) in Punjab’s SAD-BJP government, has opened a front against the Akalis for months demanding BJP to end its alliance.
AAP’s Punjab convenor, Sucha Singh Chotepur, literally welcomed the couple in the party. He tweeted: “Appreciate Navjot Sidhu and Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu Move,looking forward for their Welcome to @AAPPunjab2017”
— Sucha Singh Chotepur (@SChotepur) July 18, 2016
It is also being reported that AAP may field Sidhu as its chief ministerial candidate in the 2017 Punjab elections.
While there’s a sense of jubilation in the AAP camp over breaking away of one of the prominent and popular leaders from the BJP, there are a few aspects about this whole scheme on which the young party needs to be circumspect.
Following Sidhu’s decision to join AAP, a severely wounded BJP will be expected to leave no stones unturned to make him more of a liability on Kejriwal’s party than an asset. SAD and Congress will not be far behind in attacking both AAP and Sidhu on the perceived opportunism. Old skeletons will be (in fact they are already being) drawn out from the cupboard for the purpose.
These are the few issues on which AAP will have to be ready with convincing responses:
Two members of the same family
AAP has a stated policy against dynastic or family politics. By bringing in two members of the same family in its fold, the party will open the floodgates for its opponents to question AAP’s commitment to its own principles.
AAP can deflate the charges, nevertheless, by offering election ticket or party position to just one of the two Sidhus.
Chief ministerial candidate
If Sidhu is projected as AAP’s CM candidate, it may not be the masterstroke that many may think. The party’s local Punjab leadership may not like a new, even if eminent, member being imposed on them. The move runs the risk of demoralising and demotivating the local leadership and volunteers who have built the foundation of the party in the state. It will also go against AAP’s stated positions on inner-party democracy.
Sidhu should himself refuse any suggestion of him being the CM candidate. This will also fuse the opposition’s argument about him being an opportunist. His Rajya Sabha resignation will truly be seen as a sacrifice. With the current wave that AAP is seeing in Punjab, there’s no need to announce a CM candidate. That decision can wait after the election, when MLAs can elect their leader.
Sidhu’s conviction in a murder case
This is another reason why Sidhu should not be declared as a CM candidate. That will expose him and AAP to the most vicious attacks from the opposing camps. The attacks, in fact, have already started on the social media with BJP and Congress supporters circulating reports about Sidhu’s 2006 conviction in a 1988 homicide case. He got a three-year jail sentence in that case, which was later stayed by the Supreme Court in 2007. However, the jury, as they say, is still not out on the case.
AAP shall be prepared to face tough questions on its stand on criminalisation of politics and on not giving election tickets to convicted offenders. Wonder, what will their answers be?
The ‘Binny’ factor
As AAP expands in other parts of the country, people from other parties are bound to join the political movement. It is frequently happening in Punjab, Goa and even in Gujarat. So,whether it’s Yatin Oza or Navjot Singh Sidhu, while allowing members of rival parties like BJP and Congress to enter its fold, AAP needs to ensure that they are not being sent as ‘political spies’ to sabotage the party from within. Remember Vinod Kumar Binny and Ashwini Upadhyay?
Be extremely careful while offering membership to leaders from other political parties. Do not offer official party positions/election tickets before mutual trust is built.
It will be interesting to see whether Sidhu turns out to be a ‘googly’ or a ‘bouncer’ for AAP or whether the party hits a ‘sixer’ or gets ‘clean bowled’ in Punjab 2017.
(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of JantaKaReporter)