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Posted at: Jul 18, 2016, 3:44 PM; last updated: Jul 18, 2016, 9:19 PM (IST)

Navjot Sidhu quits Rajya Sabha; may join AAP

Reports say his CPS wife has also resigned and the couple likely to join the rookie party

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 18

Apparently upset over being “denied” a “more important role” in the government and the party’s organisation, BJP leader Navjot Sidhu on Monday resigned from the Rajya Sabha amid speculations of moving to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

In a statement, Sidhu said he had “accepted the Rajya Sabha nomination for the welfare of Punjab” at the behest of the Prime Minister. “With the closure of every window leading to Punjab, the purpose stands defeated... now a mere burden. I prefer not to carry it. In the war of right or wrong, you can't afford to be neutral or self-centered. Punjab's interest is paramount.”

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Nominated just about three months back around April 22 by the Narendra Modi government, his resignation was accepted by Chairman Hamid Ansari with immediate effect.

Hailing Sidhu’s decision to resign from the Rajya Sabha in a tweet, AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it requires courage to take such a step.

Meanwhile, according to reports, Sidhu’s wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, has also resigned as chief parliamentary secretary in Punjab. But her office said she had not resigned as the Amritsar East MLA. Neither the Punjab Speaker’s office nor party state chief Vijay Sampla had received her resignation.

Officially, the BJP refrained from making any cutting or negative remark about the former Amritsar MP who it even “provided centre stage” at the recent national executive meeting at Allahabad with “an opportunity to express deep admiration” for the Prime Minister.

His appearance at the party briefing was read as a signal that Sidhu was headed for a bigger, better role either in the government or the party organisation, which BJP president Amit Shah is expected to rejig anytime soon.

Though as per party leader Vijay Goel, the BJP will “talk” to him, top sources said the leadership was “extremely upset” and will “make no further effort on the Sidhu front now”. Terming his decision as “gaddari”, a “betrayal” to the party he once called “his mother”, they say “Sidhu was nominated to the Rajya Sabha despite his continuous problems with the Akali Dal and opposition from a section within the BJP”.

“Sidhu was never the face of the BJP in Punjab. His overall contribution to the party in the past two years has been negligible,” they said.

Though Sidhu has not resigned from the primary membership of the BJP sources say it is now a mere “formality”. “He can send his resignation by a fax or do it over the phone. If he joins another party, it will be seen as a resignation,” they add.

Sources close to him say the four-time MP felt “let down” when the Prime Minister preferred to include newcomers in his council, “ignoring his contribution to the party. He waited long enough”.

Though his nomination to the Rajya Sabha was seen as a signal he would have a “bigger role” in the party organisation, it seems he was “also unlikely to be given any significant responsibility” by Shah.

It is believed that Sidhu had advocated breaking away from the Akalis in Punjab, a suggestion which was shot down by Shah, who while deciding to stick with “big brother Akalis” in the coming polls, is letting the ally call all the shots there. “In these circumstances, there was little or no scope for Sidhu in Punjab.”

As per BJP leaders, Sidhu’s leaving would not be any major setback to the SAD-BJP combine despite the AAP challenge.

The saffron party leaders also allege that Sidhu used his Rajya Sabha nomination to leverage a “better deal” with the AAP. “He has been in talks with the AAP for long and should not have accepted the nomination to the Upper House.

Reacting to the development, AAP’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said in case Sidhu wanted to join the AAP he was welcome. Mann said the doors were wide open for him as he could prove an asset to the party. He said Sidhu had a clean image and is a good campaigner.

Durgesh Pathak, AAP national organisation head, said only the Sidhus could confirm if they were joining the AAP. He said there had been no contact with them so far.

Meanwhile, reacting to the news, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the Sidhus might join any other party, but it would make no difference to them. “He was never with us,” Sukhbir said at Fatehgarh Sahib.

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