Exactly a month after he quit the Rajya Sabha and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Navjot Singh Sidhu has a lot to choose from, but nothing he finds as good as, if not better than, what he gave up.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which he may still join, had promised him the equivalent of a blank cheque. “You join us and you will see for yourself. You will not regret it," a mediator is said to have told Sidhu. But what he did not say was that there were terms and conditions in fine print.
Sources close to Sidhu say that after he resigned, he could not get an appointment with AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for over a week.
While the AAP welcomed Sidhu on social media, Kejriwal was waiting for his party leaders to talk with him and make things very clear—Sidhu will be "made one of the biggest leaders of the party," but it will not include any announcement by way of a post—neither in the party, nor in it's Punjab unit. In the first instance, it was felt that Kejriwal wanted to see the response Sidhu gets, before committing to specifics.
By early August, after the Congress said its doors were wide open for the cricket star-turned-politician, the AAP became a bit jittery. Party leaders in the national capital whispered into the ears of media representatives that Sidhu would join the party on Independence Day. But apparently, by then it was conveyed to Sidhu that he would not be named the chief ministerial candidate, and in any case the party would not give tickets or positions to both him and his wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a BJP MLA from Amritsar-East.
An AAP leader in Chandigarh commented, "It is not an end of season sale, where you buy one, get one free. We are trying to form the first ever non-SAD, non-Congress government in the state. We have to move carefully." By then, there were anti-Sidhu voices heard in Punjab. Sucha Singh Chotepur, convenor of AAP in Punjab, is said to have believed from the very beginning, that he would be projected as the CM candidate. Bhagwant Singh Mann, an MP and head of the campaign committee, maintains that there is no hurry to name anyone for the post.
"Sidhu has more political experience than most of the people who have joined the new party. People, who support the AAP, like him, but those in the party don't. That is the position now," says a retired colonel working for the party.
On his part, Sidhu did not show any desperation to join the party, though he made it clear that he would work only in Punjab. Ironically, the BJP, which nominated him to the Rajya Sabha, wanted him to stay away from the Akali land and not campaign for the alliance. However, the AAP wants him to be their star campaigner in Punjab. It will also give him an opportunity to take on the Badals—they hate each other and make no bones about it.
But Sidhu does not want to stop at badmouthing him. R.S. Dhaliwal, a friend of his in Patiala pointed out that there was no tearing hurry for Sidhu to jump into one party or the other. "His popularity will not vanish if he has not been with any party for a few weeks", he commented.
Chotepur said the matter was entirely between Sidhu and Kejriwal as of now. But he has expressed disappointment over the names in the two lists of 32 party candidates released so far. Another leader Dr Dharamvira Gandhi has cited "paratroopers from outside" in the second list, and decided to float his own party!