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Amarinder meets Rahul Gandhi, insists no discussions on Sidhu joining Cong

Catch Team | Updated on: 22 October 2016, 11:15 IST

A day after former Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa pitched for Navjot Singh Sidhu to be brought into the party fold, state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh met the party's national vice president Rahul Gandhi to discuss strategy for the upcoming Assembly elections.

Sources said that during the discussion, the pros and cons of Sidhu joining the party were also discussed, but no decision was taken on his future with the Congress.

However, after the meeting, Amarinder said Sidhu was welcome to join the party, but claimed that his name didn't even come up for discussion.

"No, Navjot Sidhu was not discussed in the meet. Anybody interested in accepting the policies and programmes of the Congress is welcome to join us," Amarinder told ANI.

Amarinder was accompanied by state in-charge Asha Kumari, who claimed that anyone who subscribed to the party's ideology was welcome, and Sidhu was no exception. Kumari had earlier denied holding any negotiations with Sidhu over a merger or an alliance with the Awaaz-e-Punjab. "Awaaz-e-Punjab is not even a political party, so the question of a merger or alliance doesn't even exist," she said.

Bajwa's backing

The meeting comes on the heels of Bajwa making an appeal to the Congress high command to include Sidhu and his team into the Congress fold, to save Punjab from the Badals.

Batting for Sidhu, Bajwa called the cricketer-turned-politician a 'youth icon' and a 'good person', who would help the party in upstaging the SAD-BJP government in the state.

Speaking of Sidhu's Awaaz-e-Punjab colleagues - former India hockey captain Pargat Singh and brothers Balwinder and Simarjeet Bains - Bajwa said they were well meaning people, and urged the central leadership to put aside all differences to accommodate them into the party fold.

However, sources informed Catch that Amarinder is not too keen on Sidhu, and feels his inclusion could undermine his authority, and that the clamour for his inclusion is being fuelled by his detractors within the party fold.

Insiders close to Amarinder said the Congress is making significant inroads in the state, and finally working as a cohesive unit. They believe Sidhu's inclusion could reignite factionalism within party ranks, and it is best to avoid such circumstances just before the Assembly polls.

Amarinder against it, but is PK in favour?

Contrary to media reports, Sidhu has not had any meeting with the Gandhi scion, but sources have not ruled out the possibility of such a meeting in the near future.

Meanwhile, Amarinder claimed that he hasn't even met Sidhu, and that he had a meeting with Pargat Singh on 6 October, when the two were in Delhi. He said the former hockey captain wanted to discuss seat sharing with him, but nothing of that sort happened.

This was contrary to the reports that Congress had offered 13 seats to the Awaaz-e-Punjab, and the post of Deputy Chief Minister to Sidhu.

"The post of Deputy Chief Minister would never be acceptable to Amarinder, who is calling the shots in the Punjab Congress. Even the Congress high command would not want that," said a source.

In fact, Amarinder even went to the extent of saying except for the elder Bains brother (Balwinder), the others - Sidhu, Pargat and the younger Bains - would not even win a seat.

But amid all this speculation, sources have confirmed that poll strategist Prashant Kishor has held negotiations with Sidhu to strike a deal.

Sidhu had earlier quit from the BJP and from his Rajya Sabha seat, amid rumors of him joining hands with AAP. But this didn't materialise, forcing Sidhu to look for other options.

Following Sidhu's exit, his wife Navjot Kaur, too, left the BJP. Left with no choice, Sidhu began sending feelers to the Congress in his bid to stay relevant in Punjab politics.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 22 October 2016, 11:15 IST