Sidhu’s Search for a New Political Innings
Navjot Singh Sidhu earned a name as an opener in the Indian cricket team. But today in the cricket of politics, he seems to be in wilderness. After he first quit his seat in Rajya Sabha in July 2016 for which he had been nominated by BJP, he seems to be in search of a team to start his innings afresh, but so far, in vain. Having been in an inhospitable political atmosphere for about six months, he is still not sure which team will he play and at what order. And whether he will actually bat or just have to be content with campaigning which will amount to offering a running commentary.
After he resigned from Rajya Sabha, in his first media appearance, he declared: “You will find Sidhu standing where interest of Punjab stands”. In a way he has proved to be a shadow of his better-half, Mrs. Navjot Kaur Sidhu. Before Sidhu himself did, his wife quit BJP and declared her man will follow suit. He did, but after a long wait. Then she declared that he will join AAP. But that didn’t happen. Sidhu did meet Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal but nothing concrete came out. According to media reports — and AAP press briefing — Sidhu wanted nomination for his wife from Amritsar (East) seat from which she had won on BJP ticket. For himself, he wanted to be projected as deputy if not the chief ministerial candidate. AAP declined both. Then, to his dismay, he discovered that Punjab’s interest did not lay with AAP.
To promote Punjab’s interests, he floated a four-member team called “Voice of Punjab” (Awaz-e-Punjab) with disgruntled SAD MLA and former Indian Hockey Team captain, Pargat Singh, and two ambitious Bains brother politicians declaring to contest all the 117 seats in Punjab. Before the team could raise its ‘voice’ or awaz, the team disintegrated leaving Sidhu in the lurch. Pargat Singh joined Congress. Bains brothers found the interests of Punjab in AAP. Perhaps “Voice of Punjab” has not been silenced and will echo in the political outfit Sidhu joins. Interests of Punjab will also follow him behind.
In the midst of Sidhu throwing politically amorous glances at Congress, Mrs. Sidhu joined Congress shaking hands with Capt. Amrinder Singh. She announced that Sidhu will soon follow her.
In the meantime, besides meeting Amrinder Singh, Sidhu also called on Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. Though nothing has come out officially, indications are that he may discover, in the words of Capt. Amrinder Singh, his DNA in Congress. His late father was a Congressman who had contested, without success, elections to Punjab assembly on Congress nomination. In that case, it may come out to be his ‘home coming’ after straying into BJP and later, trying to find his roots in AAP. Congress, as per media reports, is willing to give ticket either Sidhu or his wife. There are also reports that Mrs. Sidhu may contest election from her home constituency of Amritsar (East) which she won as a BJP candidate last time.
This contingency is fraught with many hurdles. Both Amrinder and Sidhu are Jats and Jats being made both CM and Deputy CM may not augur well for the party in elections and annoy other castes and communities. Both have represented Amritsar in Lok Sabha but, incidentally, both also happen to hail from Patiala.
Earlier, indications were that Sidhu may be made to fight assembly election and his wife nominated to fight the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat Amrinder Singh has vacated. In all probability, bye-election to this Lok Sabha seat may also be held simultaneously with assembly elections. This eventuality recedes the chances.
Whoever fights the Amritsar (East) assembly seat, he/she will have to face the anti-incumbency of Mrs. Navjot Kaur Sidhu who continued to stick to the post of chief parliamentary secretary in Badal government till a few months back. The mere action of hers to have quit the coveted post after enjoying the luxury of office for four years does not wash clean the mud of incumbency stuck to her.
Neither BJP nor SAD is likely to forget and forgive what the duo did to both while they were in BJP and SAD-BJP government. Both the alliance partners will leave no stone unturned to deprive them of the booty of opportunism of defection.
There is also a talk of Sidhu being exploited as a star campaigner for Congress and the prize to him for changing sides may be decided after the election. How far will the Sidhu factor carry conviction after changing stands so frequently remains to be seen. In these circumstances, it may be difficult for the voter to take them as martyrs to the cause of Punjab.
Whatever it is, Punjab voter is not so ignorant to understand that for the last about 15 years the husband-wife team had identified the interests of Punjab with Akali-BJP alliance. The wife enjoyed the pelf of power. Husband held office in the organization and in Parliament. Does it mean that the “interests of Punjab” were snatched just because Sidhu was not given the ticket to fight Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2014? There are questions about his success in having risen to the occasion to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of his constituency during the three LS terms. His appearance may have made some TV channel programmes ‘popular’ and earned him some hefty income, but it has neither fetched any electoral advantage to him personally nor to the party he belonged.
It may not be right to assume that BJP lost the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2014 as Sidhu did not campaign. It is worth recalling that during the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections to Punjab assembly, he had not campaigned for the alliance in the State. Yet, the SAD-BJP withstood the anti-incumbency to bounce back to power.No individual or party can claim to be the sole custodian of the interests of Punjab. And Sidhu the least of all.
by Amba Charan Vashishth