Whether it was cricket shots as the Indian opener, or sharp and
witty remarks while delivering commentary, or even as judge of TV
comedy shows, Navjot Singh Sidhu has been a master of perfect timing – but his latest shot at emerging as a leading contender for the top
post on Punjab appears to have been mistimed.
The ground beneath his feet seems to be shifting ever since he dramatically resigned from Rajya Sabha a month ago and kept everyone speculating over his political future. He emerged from his cocoon a week after his resignation and even then declined to answer questions on his future course of action.
His procrastination in taking a call on his political future is fast limiting his options.
His failure in preparing a plan or strategy before shooting off his resignation from Rajya Sabha – to which he was nominated by the BJP only a few months ago as a way of keeping him away from Punjab politics – may cost him dearly.
AAP Seems Uninterested in Indulging Sidhu
Sidhu, who perhaps was hoping for suitors (particularly the Aam Aadmi Party) to flock to him, has evidently misread the political scenario. His long silence offered an opportunity to the top contenders for the post of Chief Minister from AAP to stake their claims and convey messages to the top party leadership that Sidhu’s entry would send the “wrong signals” to party workers and leaders.
The convenor of
the Punjab unit of AAP, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, himself a senior
contender for the top job, came out with the statement that there was
no need to project anyone as the CM candidate.
Although Sidhu and his equally vocal wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who is a BJP MLA, have gone into hibernation and are refusing calls from the media, some of the senior AAP leaders have let out the major reasons for the stalemate. They claim that Sidhu had been demanding that he be projected as the prospective CM if AAP comes to power.
Besides, he had sought a ticket for his wife and some other candidates. They point out that under the party’s declared policy, tickets cannot be given to a family member of any party leader contesting elections.
But one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the AAP leadership in accepting Sidhu is his aggressive nature which may in the future pit him against party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
There are apprehensions that he may
emerge as another strong power centre in the party, which may lead to
organisational problems at a later stage. He had another meeting with
Kejriwal last week and has sought some more time to make up his mind
on the offer from the party.
AAP undoubtedly lacks a ‘face’ to be projected as the chief minister if the party wrests power in the state.
Currently, Kejriwal remains the most visible face but he is considered unsuitable for the post mainly because he has his roots in Haryana and is a Hindu. Chief ministers in Punjab have been traditionally Sikhs, in particular Jat Sikhs. Sidhu could have fitted the bill but for the growing opposition from within the party.
Sidhu Remains Silent Amidst the Uncertainty
Sensing that Sidhu was not getting a favourable response from the AAP, the
Punjab unit of Congress too had extended an invitation to him to join
the party. Former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who is also the
president of the state unit of the party and is leading the campaign,
even said it would be ‘homecoming’ for him as his parents were also
Sidhu, however, would be sceptical about the offer to join Congress in view of a host of old warhorses in the party wanting to replace Amarinder. The state unit of the party has a reputation of being divided into various factions. Besides, there are several young emerging leaders who would not like Sidhu to para-drop into the party.
In any case, Sidhu could not have been projected even as deputy leader if the party wrests power and he could be, at best, one among a score of senior leaders hoping for a cabinet berth. Thus, his prospects in Congress are as good as doomed.
Strangely, the usually motormouth Sidhu is maintaining a stoic silence even on his relationship with the BJP. He is yet to resign from the BJP and his wife is keeping a line open with the party, according to the state BJP Chief Vijay Sampla who has been repeatedly pointing out that Sidhu had not resigned from the party.
But given the BJP’s
relationship with Akalis, and the animosity between Sidhu and Badals,
there is little likelihood of him remaining in the party.
While Sidhu is weighing his options, time is fast running out for him as the excitement after his resignation from Rajya Sabha is dying out, and the impression that he is angling for the best deal available is gaining ground. That’s like a typical politician.
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Chandigarh.)