Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu formally announced his new political front 'Awaaz-e-Punjab' in Chandigarh on Thursday.
"At this stage 'Awaaz e Punjab' is not a party, it's a forum. The redemption, resurrection and revival of this state is the aim of our Awaaz-e-Punjab," Sidhu said at a media briefing in Chandigarh.
Sidhu had resigned from the Rajya Sabha on July 18, fuelling speculation that he may join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). On Thursday, he attacked both AAP chief Arvind Kejrwal and the BJP.
"Resigning from the Rajya Sabha had nothing to do with Arvind Kejriwal. Two years ago, I had reduced a Rajya Sabha seat when I was called in by Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah. They told me that Jaitely would be spearheading the Amritsar campaign, but I would have a seat in the Rajya Sabha," he noted. Pointing to the fact that he has won four elections, Sidhu added that when he went to tender his resignation, Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari told him he had never seen anyone doing this and asked him if he was being pressured to do so. He wasn't, the four-time Lok Sabha MP told him.
"Kejriwal tweeted that I had laid down no conditions ahead of a potential move to the AAP, but that was a half-truth," said Sidhu dramatically, "I asked him to define my role. You see, I wanted to know their motive and intent. After all the party is only around two years old. Leaving a 60-year-old party for a two-year-old party, I told him I was coming for the sake of Punjab."
Eventually, Sidhu said that he was told not to contest the election.
"I said, 'Sat sri akal' and left. I was told to campaign and be a decoration piece. They offered to make my wife a minister," he said, adding, "People asked why Kejriwal was opting for an MLA as chief ministerial candidate over a four-time MP. Is he really so insecure, they asked." "Honest leaders were made mute spectators. We will shake the system that has ruined Punjab and it cannot be shaken by those who have vested interest," added Sidhu.
"Kejriwal thinks he's the only honourable person in this world. What about us?" he proceeded to ask rhetorically, before wondering if he was expected to be a 'Yes man'.
Criticising both the Congress and SAD, he said people had seen five years of Captain’s rule and 10 years of the "danda tantar” (rule of the stick).
Sidhu said their aim is that Punjab, Punjabiyat and Punjabis should win. He said it was time the clouds (Badals) over Punjab dispersed and the sun rose in the state.
Taking on the Akalis, he claimed that Master Tara Singh’s party had been reduced to a private enterprise. He said the Akalis wanted him to leave Amritsar and Punjab, which he was averse to. He accused the SAD and Congress of playing a friendly match.
Other members of the new front include former Indian hockey team captain Pargat Singh, a legislator of Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, and two independent legislators, Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjeet Singh Bains. Pargat Singh was last month suspended from the Akali Dal for "anti-party" activities. The Bains brothers, who had fallen out with the Akali Dal top leadership three years ago, have significant influence in Ludhiana district.
Highlighting the blueprint of his front for the upcoming Punjab elections, Sidhu said that their aim is to make the state prosperous again by fighting people who have 'ruined Punjab'. In his media briefing, he also talked about Punjab's drug menace. "Where is the Punjab that used to produce so many sportsmen? Today, the streets are filled with drug addicts," Sidhu said.
Elections to 117 assembly seats are likely to be held in January or early February next year.