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.
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 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 hi hugging the army chief brought huge condemnation at home.
Mr Singh and Mr Sidhu have been at odds since.
Sources in the party now say Mr Sidhu is aspiring for the top post in the party or the government — which could be a point of fresh rift between the two.