Will Navjot Singh Sidhu’s induction in the Congress barely 20 days before polling in Punjab help the party? Will he able to match the wit and sarcasm of Aam Aadmi Party’s Bhagwant Mann? Or is it a case of too little and too late?
The venom with which his induction has been greeted by Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and supporters alike suggest that he does have some firepower to contribute to the campaign of the Congress.
Known as an “attacking batsman” in his cricketing days that earned him the nickname “Sixer Sidhu”, Navjot Singh Sidhu fended off a bouncer when asked for his opinion on Narendra Modi as Prime Minister at his first press conference on Monday after joining the Congress.
He was diplomatic in saying that while the BJP chose Badals over him, he decided to “choose Punjab (over BJP)”.
BJP had denied him a ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and fielded Arun Jaitley from Sidhu’s former seat, Amritsar. While Jaitley lost the election to Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress and went on to become the Finance Minister, BJP sought to appease Sidhu by making him a Rajya Sabha Member in April, 2016.
He, however, resigned from the Rajya Sabha in July and later from the BJP. He flirted with AAP before floating a political outfit called “Aawaaz-e-Punjab”. His wife Navjot Kaur joined the Congress in November and since then there was speculation that he would also be joining the Congress.
Describing it as his ‘home-coming’, Sidhu recalled that his father Bhagwant Singh Sidhu was a freedom fighter and was in the Congress for 40 long years. The British had sent him to the gallows but an amnesty at the last moment saved his life. He had gone on to become a legislator and minister.
Asked why he hadn’t joined AAP, Sidhu said that party was not keen on him contesting: “How can I fight for the betterment of the state if I can’t fight in the polls?” He made it a point to mention how AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had once tweeted describing him as an “icon”. He also brushed aside differences with Captain Amarinder Singh by asserting that if Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav could come together, so could he and the Captain.
SAD leader Sukhbir Badal had taken Sidhu’s entry as an opportunity on Sunday to create a wedge in the Congress, asking on Twitter whether the Congress had “sent” Captain Amarinder Singh to contest in Lambi to “clear the way to make Navjot Sidhu CM candidate of Congress”. He also directed his attack on Sidhu, asking him to “come clean” on why he had “come to Punjab 20 days before election.”