Speculations are rife that cricketer-turned-politician and former Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is set to leave the Congress for Aam Aadmi Party, and on Thursday Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal made it clear that he would be happy to have the 56-year-old in his team.
Speaking at a conclave organised by News18 India, Kejriwal said the Amritsar East MLA is welcome to join AAP. “He is welcome,” Kejriwal said when asked about Sidhu’s move.
Asked if anyone from AAP had reached out to the 56-year-old politician via interlocutor, Kejriwal said, “If you ask political questions during coronavirus crisis, one can not elaborate much.”
There have been speculations that Sidhu is in talks with poll strategist Prashant Kishor over joining AAP before the Punjab assembly polls.
Sidhu quit the BJP to join Congress in 2017. He was later dropped from the cabinet after run-ins with the incumbent CM Amrinder Singh. He has since maintained a low profile.
The AAP was in talks with Sindhu ahead of the last assembly polls as well. But things did not work out over the choice of chief ministerial candidate. Sidhu later joined Congress and was inducted in Amrinder Singh government as a minister for the local government, tourism and cultural.
Ironically, Kishor, who is said to be the intermediary between AAP and Sidhu, had managed Amrinder Singh’s election campaign in 2017 assembly polls.
In March this year, AAP's Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann had said that if Sidhu decides to join the party, he would be the first to welcome him.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the Congress swept to power in Punjab by defeating the Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP. In the 117-member state Assembly, Congress had won 77 seats, followed by debutant AAP (20), SAD (15), BJP (3) and Lok Insaaf Party (2).
On Thursday, Kejriwal also hailed the central government’s move of announcing a quick lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. “Lockdown was right and timely step to prevent the coronavirus infections. We did not have PPE kits and testing kits. With the opening of lockdown, cases will rise. In the coming days, we are going to arrange 20,000 beds as we are prepared give the virus a good fight. We RE prepared to provide treatments,” he said.
“We have always been in the favour of open borders and economy. But cases in Delhi are rising and we can't open hospitals to all. We’ll sort out issues and will open borders,” he said.
Delhi, Kejriwal said, is a victim of late monitoring of Covid-19 suspects at the airports. “Most people returned to their places from airports without isolation or quarantine protocols in the beginning. Migrants should have been sent back to their home states a month before the situation turned grim. There is a need to open the economy so lockdown is required to be lifted. The state governments should be on alert for preventive measures.”