CHANDIGARH (TIP): Playing the cards close to his chest, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on September 8 launched a non-political front in Punjab attacking the Akali-BJP combine, Congress and the AAP but gave no indication about who he will align with in the Assembly elections He dubbed the AAP, with which he was widely speculated to be eyeing a tie up, as “anarchy in the garb of democracy” and said its leader Arvind Kejriwal wants only “yes-men”.
Addressing a press conference at the formal launch of “Awaaz-E-Punjab”, a non-political front for “betterment” of Punjab, the former BJP leader, who quit his Rajya Sabha seat in July, said its aim is to hand over the power of democracy to people after ending “the rule of one family” in the state.
Sidhu said that in the next 15-20 days he will come out with the fronts future plan.
Launching a frontal attack on the Badals, who have been in power for a decade, he said the “kaale Badal (dark clouds) have overshadowed Punjab and people are keen to see sunlight”.
“People elect government for themselves and not for a family,” he said, alleging that Badals have made Punjab and the party as their family fiefdom. He also claimed that Akalis and Congress were “two sides of the same coin” who fought a “friendly-match” and ruined Punjab, which needed a change for its better future. Clearing the air over speculation about his joining AAP, Sidhu claimed that the AAP leadership was after him for the last two years and made many offers. He accused Kejriwal of speaking “half truth” as he was told to not contest but only campaign. “Kejriwal and his men were luring me for last two years to join AAP. They offered many things but I only asked them to define my role. I wanted to know his intentions and his aim. “He told me not to contest but only campaign. But he said my wife can contest and will make her a minister. I thanked him. He also wanted to make me a decoration piece, which I was earlier,” he told reporters.
Attacking the AAP leader, Sidhu said, “Kejriwal wants only yes men…arrogance in democracy is not acceptable.”
“Kejriwal thinks only he is honest and no one else is and it is his copyright. He feels others have no right to say that they are honest. I am sitting here with people who are to help Punjab. I am ready to give my life for Punjab.
“Kejriwal is always trying to indulge in one-upmanship and take credit and no one else is allowed to do so,” said Sidhu, who was flanked by Olympian and rebel SAD MLA Pargat Singh and Bains brothers – Simarjeet and Balwinder. He claimed that people have suffered in the hands of five years of Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh and during the last 10 years of danda tantra (rule of the stick) during which he alleged, false cases were slapped on people and votes secured through polarisation. Sidhu formally launched the front as Kejriwal started his four-day visit to the state to boost the party’s campaign.
Sidhu sought 15-20 days more to spell out what would be the role of his newly launched front. Without spelling out if
‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ will be launched as a political party later on, Sidhu said it is a forum of like minded people for the betterment of Punjab.
He went into details on why things with AAP did not materialise, how he was strongly opposed to the ruling Badals and mystery surrounding his surprise decision to resign from the Rajya Sabha seat recently.
Sidhu began by telling journalists that he would prefer to address them in Punjabi, saying “If a Punjabi person does not speak in Punjabi, it looks like he is telling a lie.”
“The issue I am putting up before you today is serious, it will answer most of your queries. Aawaz-e-Punjab’s objective is to make Punjab which is in dire straits prosperous again.”
“It has become tradition in India and in Punjab to use good people as decoration pieces, when you need them use them and later on dump them. This has become the tradition,” he said.
Attacking the Badal family, Sidhu said ideology of ‘Awaaz-e-Punjab’ is to empower people of Punjab rather than present concentration of power which is only with ruling Badal family.
Noting that Badals have “no policy and no desire” to resurrect Punjab, he said “dark ‘Badal’ (cloud) has overshadowed Punjab and people are keen to see sunlight.”
Without naming his own party BJP, he said like them, Kejriwal too wanted him to be just a “decoration piece” who are used and then dumped once the job is done.
Sidhu held that no party is good or bad, but it’s the people who run it and their thinking what matters.
He noted that need of the hour is to revive and redeem “hapless” Punjab. “Currently, Punjab is in worse condition,” he said. We are not fighting for personal gains but for the better future of Punjab,” he said.
He said people of Punjab want change of governance and this can be done by those leaders who are strong. “We will work for Punjab, Punjabiat and in the end Punjabiat and people of Punjab will win,” he said.
He accused Badals of controlling all the businesses in Punjab and even mortgaging government properties for their own family’s benefit. Sidhu alleged both Badal and Amarinder Singh (Punjab Congress chief) are two sides of one coin. “They are playing a friendly match,” he said, adding this had led to frustrated people raising their voices.
Hitting out at Badals and Amarinder, he said “they are rich in ambition and poor in condition.”
Over the issue of his quitting the Rajya Sabha seat, he said that “It had nothing to do with AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal. I had refused the Rajya Sabha seat two years back.”
Sidhu also talked in detail trying to clear the air over earlier speculations on his joining AAP. “I will tell you why Sidhu could not be one with Kejriwal Sahib. When I speak, I speak less, but when I do, then I do not leave anything, I will make all things clear to you,” he told a volley of questions fielded on the issue.
“Kejriwal and his men were luring me for last two years to join AAP. They offered many things, but I only asked them to define my role. I wanted to know his intentions and his aim,” he said.
“Kejriwal thinks only he is honest and no one else is and it is his copyright. He feels others have no right to say that they are honest. I am sitting here with people who are to help Punjab. I am ready to give my life for Punjab.”
Attacking BJP and the Akalis, Sidhu said he was made a “decorative piece” by the ruling dispensation and was not accorded any importance even at public functions, fearing he may hog limelight.
“It was not possible to stand with Dhritarashtra. They are Dhritarashtra and Dusshasana. They nominated me to Rajya Sabha and one BJP leader said campaign for Badal and other said ‘don’t go to Punjab’,” he said, making an analogy with characters of epic Mahabharata.
Without naming anyone, he said, “they hatched conspiracies, threw baits, but Sidhu did not leave Guru Ka Ghar (Amritsar). They wanted that Sidhu should leave Amritsar,” he said.
Taking on Akalis, he said, “All that Sidhu wanted was development of Amritsar and to take care of problems faced by the people of holy city”.
“What were we asking for, only development of Amritsar, something to solve the problem of solid waste in the city. Had they done any politics with Sidhu, I would not have had a problem, but you will stop development of Amritsar, that was unacceptable to me,” he said.
About Punjab Congress chief, Sidhu said, he also tried to woo him. “Capt Sahib also send 30-40 people (to meet him),” Sidhu said.
Replying to a question, Sidhu targeted AAP, saying “The East India company came with 40,000 troops and ruled over 40 crore people in India.”
“Like that, the Central India company has sent 40 people and want to rule over Punjab by dividing the people of Punjab. There is no difference. They talk to individuals and people are told and never heard.”
When asked that AAP has charged him with being highly ambitious, Sidhu shot back, “who are they to say this”.
Asked if his front will help the ruling Akails, he said, “It is for the people of Punjab to decide.”
When asked if he had asked bargained for being projected as Chief Ministerial candidate of AAP, Sidhu said, “look at Kejriwal’s tweet earlier, what does it say, it says Navjot Sidhu had set no pre-condition. Where does this question (of CM ship) arise that I aspired for this or that.”