Navjot Singh Sidhu, Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency, may be a novice in the political arena, but he is certainly giving his Congress party rival, sitting MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia, a run for his money.
Sidhu may have left his cricketing days behind, but cricket is never far from his mind even in the heat of electoral battle. The flamboyant former opening batsman told rediff.com Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh, who chased him from rally to rally, asking questions as and when Sidhu could spare a minute or two, that if his opponent bowled a bouncer at him, he would smash it for a six.
This is your maiden entry into politics. How do you find the new innings that you have begun?
I am certainly enjoying this innings. I am a soldier of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Amritsar. I have been campaigning from day one to win the seat for Vajpayee. I played as an opening batsman in the Indian team and never shied away from fast bowling. So I am taking these things in my stride.
Why did you lose your cool on the campaign trail in Qadian when the traders asked you to sit on a tarazu [scales]?
I do not remember losing my cool at any place during the campaign. I am maintaining my temperament.
You said you stick to your principles and in order to uphold them you even left the Indian team.
This is right. You would recall that I had walked out of the Indian team when the question of my turban came up. I do not compromise on my principles.
What if you lose the battle?
Please do not use ifs and buts. There is no such thing in life.
You should learn to live in reality. What is past is past. I look ahead.
There is a popular song by Asha Bhonsle -- Aage bhi jaane naa tu, peeche bhi jaane naa tu, jo bhi hai bas yahin ek pal hain. The need of the hour is that I should work hard and take this seat for Vajpayeesaab. When the time comes we will think about the future.
Are you confident of winning this seat?
I was always confident. The day I landed here in Amritsar, I was confident that I would win. Normally people vote against something and express their resentment. This is a rare occasion when the people of the country are voting for the Vajpayee government. For its work, for its progress and for its development.
Are the people of Amritsar going to vote for Sidhu as a cricket celebrity?
Sidhu as a cricketer and as a person comes number three or four in the list. First comes Prime Minister Vajpayee, who is my leader. Next comes my party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Number three is the Shiromani Akali Dal headed by former chief minister Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, which is supporting my candidature.
So you think the people of Amritsar will vote against R L Bhatia, candidate of the Congress party?
There is so much resentment against the ruling Congress party in the state. There is resentment against Captain Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab. In two-and-a-half years of their rule the Congress has done nothing to mitigate the sufferings of the people of Punjab.
Navjot Singh Sidhu without the support of the party is nothing. Then comes Sidhu the person. The top priority is to get the blessings of senior citizens. The one who gets these blessings will naturally win.
As far as Bhatiaji is concerned, he is my elder and I am not going to say anything against him. But he has to name one single thing that he has done for the people of Amritsar in the last 30 years. I challenged him to a debate and hold a joint press conference. But he ran away from me and said I am a kid before him.
Do you feel that other cricketers should have come forward to help you in your campaign?
No. I am contesting for the Lok Sabha. Why should other cricketers come and help me? This is a political arena. What would the cricketers come and do here?
Why is the BJP keen on taking cricketers like you, Kirti Azad and Chetan Chauhan?
Kirti Azad came a long time back and he has a political background. His father was chief minister of Bihar. Chetan Chauhan was an exception.
I too have a political background. My father was in Punjab politics. I have already told you that I am here more as a soldier of Vajpayee than anything else.
Image: Rahil Shaikh