NEW DELHI: The AAP was today taken aback by Navjot Singh Sidhu's decision to float a political outfit in poll-bound Punjab after weeks of speculation that he might join the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit. Former BJP leader Sidhu, who quit his Rajya Sabha seat last month, was being wooed by the AAP, but both the sides could not reach an agreement.
The news of Sidhu forming a political front comes at a time when the party is facing the prospect of a vertical split after its state convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur was sacked over allegations of bribery. "We have learnt that Sidhu has formed a political front. It is up to him to comment whether they will launch a party or not," AAP's Punjab state in-charge Sanjay Singh said.
Himmat Singh Shergill, an AAP leader in Punjab, said forming a political outfit is a personal decision of Sidhu. Asked whether it would hurt AAP's prospects in next year's Assembly election, Shergill said, "The Aam Aadmi Party is based on an ideology and not on an individual. People are with us."
The cricketer-turned-politician is all set to float his own political outfit "Awaaz-e-Punjab" after joining hands with some ousted Akali legislators.
Last month, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had sought to scotch "rumours" on Sidhu's possible induction into AAP, saying the cricketer-turned-politician has not put any pre-condition and just needs "time to think".
Kejriwal said his respect for Sidhu, who met him on August 12 at his residence, would continue irrespective of whether "he joins (AAP) or not". Earlier, the AAP chief had said that talks of Sidhu becoming the party's face in Punjab were "premature".
"Wud Navjot Sidhu ji join AAP- lot of rumours? Its my duty to put forward our side. We have greatest greatest regard for this ckt legend. He met me last week. "Didn't put any pre-condition. He needs time to think. Lets respect that. He is a v gud human being n a ckt legend. My respect for him wud continue whether he joins or not (sic)," Kejriwal had said in a series of tweets.
Asked when it was decided to form the outfit, Bains said, he, his brother and Pargat Singh had held a meeting at Sidhu's house in Delhi on Wednesday. "Our main intention for coming together was to save Punjab from drug scourge, mafia system working in the state," he said.
The AAP is already facing internal bickerings in its Punjab unit in the aftermath of removal of its state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur.
Asked whether it was a setback for AAP's prospects in next year's Assembly election, Himmat Singh Shergill, an AAP leader in Punjab said, "The Aam Aadmi Party is based on an ideology and not on an individual. People are with us."
The poster also mentions a couplet of famous Punjabi writer Surjeet Patar, saying, "So what if it is autumn now, you believe in the next season. I will bring saplings after finding them, and you save the land for flowers."
Both Bains and Pargat said they were also in talks with the other "like-minded people who want to save Punjab and Punjabiyat". "We are in talks with several leaders. But I cannot reveal their names at this moment," they said.
While Sidhu is a former Amritsar Lok Sabha MP from BJP, Pargat Singh is an MLA from Jalandhar Cantt and was suspended by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in July along with another MLA from Amritsar (South) Inderbir Singh Bolaria for alleged anti-party activities.
Pargat, a former Hockey Olympian and a former Director of Sports in Punjab, was also speculated to join AAP earlier. Independent MLAs from Ludhiana, Bains brothers, were inducted into SAD fold as associate members in the state Vidhan Sabha. But both developed differences with Akali Dal after Simarjeet Bains decided to contest as an Independent candidate from Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat in 2014, which he lost.
Asked about the development, AAP leader Sanjay Singh said, "We have got information that they have made some morcha or front. Only they can give information on this."