Navjot Singh Sidhu, the quintessential 57-year-old Punjabi, has proved to be as temperamental on the political pitch as he was on the batting pitch.
He is as unpredictable as a politician as he was as a batsman and equally unreliable. But as they say, birds of a feather flock together. His joining issues with the Gandhi siblings as far as Punjab politics is concerned cannot be described any other way as they are also equally unreliable.
In sync with his temperament, he has been changing his political affiliation like the color of his turban, at times saffron of BJP and at times the tricolor of Congress. He was known as “sixer Sidhu” for his penchant for hitting sixes. He has exhibited the same instinct in politics too, but, politics is no cricket. He has been caught within the boundary.
After the end of his 19-year cricketing career, he has been flirting with many vocations ranging from cricket commentary, judging comedy contests, participating in sitcoms, a contender in Bigg Boss, and finally politics. He started his political stint with the BJP in 2004 and contested the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar and won. He continued to win that seat and was known for his acerbic criticism of Rahul Gandhi. He was the one who ridiculed Rahul Gandhi so much by calling him “Pappu” that the nickname stuck to him, and everybody started referring to Rahul Gandhi as “Pappu,” a slang for someone incapable.
This led to loss of credibility and became a contributing factor to Congress debacle in 2014 general election. In 2017, he performed a political summersault by leaving the BJP and joining Congress because he felt the party was not giving him his due in sync with his stature. He had no qualms in joining Congress and accepting the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, whom he had ridiculed all the while by calling him “Pappu.”
Now, he has resigned as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief after being given the baton of the state just a month earlier. Where would this political summersault land him, even God does not know, because He too finds him very unpredictable. Only time will tell what aces does Sidhu have up his arms.
His closeness to the Gandhi siblings (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi) had created flutters even within the Congress as party workers had never seen someone who was a rank outsider get so close to the party high command so soon. Punjab Congress has many veterans and stalwarts who were with the party for decades like Sunil Jakhar, Pratap Singh Bajwa, and the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh himself. Yet, they were all sidelined and Navjot Singh Sidhu was chosen as the PPCC chief.
This was done primarily to rein in Captain Amarinder Singh, who was perceived to be not respecting enough towards the party high command to the point of defying their diktats. This did not go down well with the Gandhis. They wanted to fix him using Navjot Singh Sidhu whose popularity in Punjab the party thought could be milked for winning the upcoming assembly election.
They colluded with Sidhu to humiliate the CM and, in a manner of speaking, arm-twisted him to put in his papers. This led to the swearing in of Charanjit Singh Channi as the new CM but it seems this too has not gone down well with Sidhu. He has thrown a spanner into the whole gambit by resigning as PPCC chief thus casting a dark shadow on the political judgment of the Gandhi siblings, which was already under scrutiny because of the consistent poll debacle the party has been witnessing under their leadership. This would add to the long list of their woes.
The whole political maneuvering seems to have boomeranged on Congress. Everybody is keeping their fingers crossed as to the final outcome of this political drama. Meanwhile, Captain Amarinder Singh, who continues to enjoy popular acceptance in Punjab, has asked for a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah. What new turn this will take only time will tell. For the moment, we can only sigh by reaffirming what the Chinese say, “we live in interesting times.”