Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is very much in the Congress and is not going to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Friday, nixing reports that his biggest rival and critic in the party is in talks with Arvind Kejriwal.
Amarinder Singh aka "Captain" said he had confirmed this with the man who is believed to have set up talks between Navjot Sidhu and Arvind Kejriwal - master strategist Prashant Kishor.
"Navjot Sidhu is very much a part of our party. As far as Prashant Kishor approaching Sidhu to join AAP is concerned, it is not true and it has been confirmed to me by Prashant himself," said the Chief Minister.
On Mr Kishor, who is believed to have played a big role in Congress's victory in Punjab in 2017, the Captain said: "We are friends, my MLAs want him to strategise for the elections. Prashant Kishor has said he would be quite happy to come and help."
Punjab is due for elections in 2022. Mr Singh, who had earlier declared that 2017 would be his last election, said he has decided to contest the 2022 assembly polls.
There has been intense speculation that Mr Sidhu, who has been in a sulk for more than a year and has not been actively involved in the Congress's activities for months, is in talks with AAP, a party he had flirted with earlier too.
Reports suggested that Mr Kishor had approached the flamboyant former Punjab minister and asked him to join AAP, which plans an aggressive campaign for the Punjab polls.
Mr Kejriwal's comment to News 18 reinforced speculation. "He's welcome," said the Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief, when asked about the possibility of Mr Sidhu's entry.
In 2016, after quitting the BJP, Mr Sidhu joined the Congress despite several indications that he was headed towards AAP. Sources say there were disagreements over Mr Sidhu's terms for joining AAP.
But his stint in the Congress has been largely unsatisfactory. Mr Sidhu, 56, has had a running feud with Amarinder Singh and quit as Punjab Minister last year after many clashes. The last straw for him was when his portfolio was changed from local government to power, which he saw as a downgrade.
The flamboyant cricket commentator also skipped the election campaigns in Haryana and in Delhi despite being named among star campaigners of the Congress.
His rift with Amarinder Singh widened with his frequent acts of defiance; the Chief Minister complained to the Congress that Mr Sidhu went to Pakistan for Imran Khan's oath ceremony despite his objections.