By Jaideep Sarin
From cricketer-turned-politician-turned-TV host to BJP MP-turned-Congress legislator aspirant, Navjot Singh Sidhu has covered some distance and worn different hats in the last few years. But his latest move to the Congress just days ahead of Punjab’s crucial assembly elections is being questioned for a variety of reasons.
“Funny-man” Sidhu may soon realise that he is not sitting as a judge on a comedy show where he has the last word.
Having finally left the BJP last September after being part of its for over 12 years, Sidhu initially hobnobbed with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress in the run-up to the assembly elections.
When things did not go his way, Sidhu floated a political front, Awaaz-e-Punjab, which was to provide a fourth option to voters in Punjab besides the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine, the Congress and the AAP. This move remained a non-starter and Sidhu kept everyone guessing in Punjab even as he continued to make his weekly appearance on the popular “The Kapil Sharma Show” on TV.
In the political battleground for the February 4 assembly polls in 117 constituencies, Sidhu has come out all guns firing. His main target is Punjab’s ruling Badal family — headed by five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal — and the Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP and the AAP.
Whatever Sidhu may claim now, there are questions being raised about his actions and affiliations.
For 10 years, from 2004 to 2014, Sidhu remained part of the BJP as the Amritsar Lok Sabha MP. His wife, Navjot Kaur, was a BJP legislator from Amritsar-East (which Sidhu is contesting this time) and even remained Chief Parliamentary Secretary (a high-rank political post in the government which is one step below a minister, with all the perks and privileges of a minister) till a couple of months back.
The Sidhus are now being accused of enjoying power with the Akalis and the BJP and now gunning for them. Sidhu, who is accusing the Akalis and Badals of massive corruption in the past 10 years of their rule, was very much part of the alliance government directly and through his wife. He hardly raised his voice against such big corruption taking place.
Another weak point for Sidhu has been his performance as an MP, what with being termed an “absentee” and “missing” lawmaker. At times, his opponents even put up posters in his constituency offering to reward anyone giving information about Sidhu.
The AAP and Sidhu are now calling each other names, but not too long ago both sides were into serious negotiations for a political deal which ultimately fizzled out.
Sidhu’s own front, the Awaaz-e-Punjab, came a cropper as he failed to spare time and effort to give it any direction. Two of its founders, the Bains brothers (Balwinder and Simarjit) from Ludhiana, have now formed an alliance with AAP to contest the assembly polls. The fourth member, former hockey team captain and Olympian Pargat Singh is, like Sidhu, contesting on a Congress ticket.
Joining the Congress too came a bit late for Sidhu, and party leaders are not sure if he will be of any advantage, given the impression of being politically unstable that he has created for himself.
Sidhu’s well-known oratorical skills may not help bail him out of the situation his political past and uncertain politics have placed him in. Whether he turns out to be an asset or a liability for the Congress, the assembly election results will tell soon.