Chandigarh, Jan 16: Congress on Sunday, Jan 15, announced that former cricketer and politician Navjot Singh Sidhu will formally join the Congress party today, January 16. The party also released his pictures with Rahul Gandhi making this announcement. The pictures were released by AICC which showed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi draping Sidhu with a scarf in party colours. The immediate announcement of Sidhu’s joining indicated that Congress was feeling the pressure of never-ending speculation about the former cricketer.

“Known for straight talking, ideological commitment to the cause of nationalism as also wit and humour, we are certain that Congress party will be immensely strengthened in Punjab and elsewhere with the entry of Sidhu,” said AICC spokesman Randeep Surjewala.

However, Sidhu’s joining is also preceded by speculation that Sidhu wanted four to five assembly seats for his associates and wife, besides the Amritsar parliamentary seat vacated by Amarinder Singh. It has also been speculated that Sidhu was also pitching for the post of deputy chief minister in Punjab.

Sidhu met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and joined the party ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections scheduled to be held in February 2017. Former cricketer and BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu will contest from Amritsar East in Punjab Assembly polls as Congress nominee.

To put a lid on the rumours and speculation, Congress announced that former CM and state unit chief Amarinder Singh and Sidhu would visit Darbar Sahib on January 19 and would hold a joint press conference and roadshow in Amritsar. However, the long process of his joining raised anxiety levels in Congress. The delays in the seat allocation have given Aam Aadmi Party an opportunity to hold the ground in Punjab. Arvind Kejriwal on Jan 10 was virtually declared the Chief Ministerial candidate in Punjab by his Aam Aadmi Party by the Deputy CM of Delhi, Manish Sisodia.

“People were asking me who will be the Punjab Chief Minister. I want to say one thing here that you should believe that Arvind Kejriwal is going to be Punjab’s CM,” he said. He added, “Whosoever will be the CM, it shall be the responsibility of Kejriwal to get all the promises honoured…. I give you guarantee in this regard.”

Though his arrival in Congess was in the works, delays in his joining raised the speculations that he might have been asked to take on Punjab deputy CM and Akali scion Sukhbir Badal in Jalalabad. Earlier, before this announcement came, the Congress high command had asked Sidhu to contest the Lok Sabha polls on the Amritsar seat, and his wife to contest the assembly polls, Sidhu had already made it clear in December 2016 that they will not contest two polls but only one.

Sidhu and his wife left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in September 2016 and speculations were raised as where the former cricketer would be in the assembly polls, but now after this it seems Sidhu found his vocation in the Congress party. Navjot Singh Sidhu also launched his own party Awaaz-e-Punjab.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, 53, prior to leaving BJP had alleged that he has been sidelined by the Party and hence surrendered his parliamentary seat of Amritsar for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Soon after the resignation of Navjot Singh Sidhu, his wife Navjyot Kaur Sidhu also left the party and joined the Congress.