Navjot Singh Sidhu Says Joining Congress

Navjot Singh Sidhu Says Joining Congress

NEW DELHI: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu today declared himself a "born Congressman" after formally joining the party,  capping weeks of negotiations ahead of the Punjab election next month. "This is my ghar wapsi," said Mr Sidhu, who quit the BJP in September complaining that he had been sidelined.

Asked whether he was ready to work under the Congress' chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh, who was believed to have swallowed his reservations to go with his party's decision to take him on board, Mr Sidhu quipped: "If Lalu (Yadav) and Nitish (Kumar) can come together, why can't Amarinder Singh and I?

The same question, a few moments later, drew an even more dramatic allegory. "If two nations can resolve issues sitting across table then why can't two individuals," he countered.

Calling the coming election a "fight for Punjab's self-respect," the 58-year-old stressed he is willing to work under anyone the Congress high command decides.

"Navjot Singh Sidhu's fight is for the redemption of Punjab, it is not an individual battle. I can't see the youth dying slowly," he said, referring to the state's notorious drug problem, depicted in the film "Udta Punjab".

"Punjab was once known for the Green Revolution, now it is notorious for 'chitta' (a lethal synthetic drug popular among the youth," he said, blaming the Akali Dal-BJP government for what he called the state's downfall.

Targeting Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family, he joked: "Bhaag baaba Badal bhaagkursi khaali kar (run, Badal, run, get off your seat)", twisting the popular film title "Bhaag Milkha, Bhaag" on the famous athlete.

The ex-commentator often broke into couplets and poetry in his inimitable style to explain a circuitous route to the Congress after his fall-out with the BJP and the failed talks with Arvind Kejriwal.

On his first party, the BJP, he said: "They chose the alliance, I chose Punjab."

Mr Sidhu is expected to contest the February 4 Punjab polls from Amritsar East, a part of the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency which he represented as a BJP member from 2004 to 2014.

The former cricketer joined the Congress after several rounds of meetings with Rahul Gandhi. As one of the party's star campaigners, he is expected to address a series of rallies.