Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has invited his biggest rival and critics within the party, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Sidhu to his home for lunch tomorrow. The two are “expected to discuss state and national politics over the luncheon meeting,” tweeted Mr Singh’s media adviser while announcing the unprecedented invite, which has raised speculation about a possible patch-up between the two.
Though the Chief Minister has maintained that Mr Sidhu, being just three years old in the party, cannot be elevated to the post of the state president, it is expected that both leaders may make some announcements after the meeting.
Elections are due in the state in 2022 and Mr Sidhu has a following both in the state and the party.
A minister in Mr Singh’s government, Mr Sidhu had stepped down last year and in July, there was speculation about him joining the Aam Aadmi Party. Asked about the matter, Mr Singh had given a firm “no”, saying “Navjot Sidhu is very much a part of our party”.
Known to be backed by Rahul Gandhi, Mr Sidhu had dropped off the radar since. In July, he surfaced to write to the Chief Minister in July, complaining about the lack of development in Amritsar East — part of Amritsar and the home turf of the Chief Minister.
The unprecedented invite comes as the short lull in farmers’ protest is about to end. Earlier today, the farmers had threatened to block the highway to Jammu and Kashmir after Haryana sealed its border.
“Haryana CM Khattar has sealed borders for Pb farmers to prove that Pb is not part of India. OK. We will peacefully block route to Himachal and J and K. Will start dharna on road,” tweeted Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal).
Mr Sidhu has been one of the key leaders visiting farmers since the beginning of the protest and is expected to have influence over them — a crucial point at this juncture.
the former minister’s self-imposed exile had ended when the farmers’ protest started.
He had addressed a couple of gatherings of farmers in Amritsar and later shared the stage with Mr Singh in Moga on the first day of Rahul Gandhi’s three-day rally. But even there, he had attacked the Chief Minister, suggesting that he procure crops of farmers if the Centre stops the procurement.
The cricketer-politician’s term in the party, which he joined in 2017, has been largely unsatisfactory.
Not only did he get the expected prominence – the post of the deputy Chief Minister in the government, he also ran into rough weather with Amarinder Singh after his visit to Pakistan where images of his hugging the army chief brought huge condemnation at home. Mr Singh and Mr Sidhu have been at odds since.
To bridge the gap between the two leaders, the party’s Central leadership had appointed former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat as the party in-charge in the state. It appears that Mr Rawat’s efforts have paid off.
Mr Sidhu had supported the Chief Minister’s march against the farm laws in the national capital last month. He even avoided any criticism of Mr Singh during his address at Jantar Mantar and now, he has been invited for the luncheon meeting by the Chief Minister.