Could Sidhu now contest from Kurukshetra instead of Amritsar?
Speculation is rife that former Indian cricketer-turned BJP politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has been offered an alternate Lok Sabha seat to contest from, instead of from Amritsar, where he has been a Member of Parliament (MP) thrice.
Though there is no formal confirmation of this development as yet, there is a view in BJP circles that Sidhu is facing a strong anti-incumbency factor in Amritsar, and a suggestion is being made that he consider contesting from Kurukshetra.
Sources have said that the names of Arun Jaitley and Punjab BJP vice president Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina is doing the rounds for the Amritsar seat.
When contacted, Sidhu said that he had been offered other sites too, but he is yet to make up his mind.
"My heart lies in Amritsar, and I want to contest this seat only. The BJP top leadership is worried that alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) may not extend support to me and want me to shift away. But I am ready to contest only from Amritsar," Sidhu told ANI on phone from Mumbai.
Sidhu said he is trying to convince the central leadership of the party not to shift him out of Amritsar, as he believes he can win the seat for the fourth time.
"See, the Badals are very influential and can play a role in deciding the ticket. But, I have prepared my mind that I will either contest from Amritsar or I will not contest from anywhere this time," he said.
He described Jaitley as his 'guru', and added that he would support him (Jaitley) if he decides to contest from Amritsar.
However, sources said that Jaitley has not shown interest as yet to jump into the poll fray.
Sidhu's wife, Navjot Kaur, who is an MLA and chief parliamentary secretary in the Badal Government said the party high command has asked her not to speak to the media.
Sidhu is facing trouble in Amritsar because of his prolonged absence from the constituency, and bitter war of words with alliance partners, the Akalis, besides bickering within the local BJP unit.
He was reportedly asked to contest from Delhi (West) and the Ghaziabad seats also.
Chhina, who is the only another 'Sikh face' within the BJP in the state after Sidhu, has intensified his lobbying for the ticket too.
Though the name of the state BJP president Kamal Sharma and former Minister Baldev Raj Chawla had also been doing the rounds, the main fight is between Sidhu and Chhina.
Both belong to the dominating Jat Sikh community, and have not been seeing an eye to eye for long.
Their differences surfaced when Sidhu blamed Chhina for not working wholeheartedly for him during the 2009 general elections, and Sidhu vowed to return only after Chhina was removed as chairman of the local improvement trust.
The bitterness further deepened when Sidhu batted for his wife Dr.Navjot Kaur as a candidate for Amritsar (East) which Chhina was also eyeing, and his claim was overruled as Sidhu threatened to resign from the party if the ticket was given to Chhina.
Sidhu who had been spending time on TV Comedy shows and cricket commentary had been staying away from Amritsar and was in the eye of storm for criticizing the BJP-SAD Government in state, which angered the local eladership.
Sidhu stayed away from all party's programs and functions and did not attend even party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's Fateh rally at Jagraon recently.
Chhina, a local influential leader, has closer ties with the top brass in the BJP. Ever since he sensed that Sidhu might be shifted away, he has left no stone unturned to stake his claim for a ticket.
He had strong support from Kamal Sharma and various local leaders, including Cabinet Minister Anil Joshi, general secretary Tarun Chugh, Mayor Bakshi Ram.
He has been camping in Delhi, and there are indications that he might prevail upon the central leadership of the BJP if Sidhu is shifted to any other seat or adjusted in the Rajya Sabha, as had been desired by him during his recent meetings with the party bosses in Delhi.
(Posted on 14-03-2014)