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Sidhu will be a liability for the Congress

January 10, 2017 15:04 IST

'It will be a mistake to imagine that Sidhu will be a permanent feature of the Congress' Punjab scene,' says Amulya Ganguli.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, seen here at the Golden Temple, tendered his resignation to the Bharatiya Janata Party on September 14, days after he announced the launch of his party, the Awaaz-e-Punjab. Photograph: Kind courtesy Navjot Kaur Sidhu/Facebook

Navjot Singh Sidhu's political itinerary represents the perambulations of a maverick.

Having left the BJP, he knocked on the Aam Aadmi Party's door for admission. But, on being denied entry, the former cricketer is now set to join the Congress, which, in its present sorry state at the national level (though not in Punjab), will be willing to admit anyone.

However, it is worth remembering that Sidhu's earlier term for joining a 'Congress without Captain' in Punjab is unlikely to be fulfilled.

The reason, as Pratap Singh Bajwa, the former Congress chief in the state, clarified is that the 'whole of our campaign is revolving around the Punjab Congress president' -- Captain Amarinder Singh.

Sidhu's reservations about the Captain are understandable because in the event of a Congress victory, it is the Captain who will most probably be the chief minister.

Since Sidhu's trek from party to party is motivated by the desire to be Punjab chief minister, he will undoubtedly be miffed if the prize is denied to him.

It was the AAP's refusal to promise him the post which is believed to have led to his departure from the party apart from the fact that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appears to feel insecure in the presence of assertive and talkative colleagues.

This was apparently the reason why he had the party ideologue Yogendra Yadav expelled from the organisation.

If Sidhu finds that the CM's post continues to be out of his reach in the Congress as well, he is unlikely to work night and day for the party's success in the forthcoming elections.

It is not only the CM's post which is being denied to him, Amarinder Singh has said that no assurances have been given to Sidhu about being made the deputy chief minister.

In all probability, therefore, Sidhu may be someone like Manpreet Singh Badal, finance minister in Parkash Singh Badal's cabinet who rebelled against the Akalis and has now joined the Congress.

Since doing so, Manpreet Singh, who once created quite a stir by complaining about Punjab's bankruptcy, has more or less faded away.

It will be naïve to expect Sidhu to do the same since his entire career has been marked by acts which are meant to keep him in the headlines.

These have ranged from walking out of the Indian cricket team because of differences with the then captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, in 1996 when the team was touring England, to finding himself in jail on charges of culpable homicide following a clash with a person in a parking lot.

A colourful personality like him who is also known for his gift of the gab will not find it easy to abide by the subservient feudalistic discipline of a 131-year-old party.

However, what may appeal to him is the Congress' famed factionalism.

In Punjab, such groupism had pitted Amarinder Singh against former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in 2012, leading to the party's defeat in the assembly elections, according to some analysts.

Four years later, Amarinder Singh had to throw down the gauntlet to persuade the Congress high command to remove his bête noire, Pratap Singh Bajwa, from the party chief's position in the state because of his differences with Bajwa.

In a party as prone to group rivalry as the Congress, the entry of the flamboyant Sidhu may well be like a bull in a china shop with the various factions trying to rope him in by stoking his not-so-latent ambitions and to utilise his eloquence.

The overheated poll atmosphere will be ideally suited for him to display his oratorical skills.

He is also likely to be at his fiery best since he nurtures deep grouses against both the BJP, which asked him to vacate the Amritsar seat in Arun Jaitley's favour in 2014, and the AAP which found him to be too hot a potato to handle.

Since these two parties will remind the voters during the campaign that the Congress is Sidhu's third choice since he had nowhere else to go, some of the road rage which led to his conviction in 2006 may be rekindled.

It may not be besides the point, therefore, to speculate that Sidhu will be more of a liability for the Congress than a valuable asset.

It may take some time for the negative aspects of his induction to become clear, especially if the Congress manages to win, as a recent opinion poll has indicated, since a victory will reignite his desire for the top slot.

But even if all remains quiet for some time, it will be a mistake to imagine that Sidhu will be a permanent feature of the Congress' Punjab scene.

Sooner or later, he will seek fresh pastures since at 53, he is still a young politician.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

IMAGE: Navjot Singh Sidhu, seen here at the Golden Temple, tendered his resignation to the Bharatiya Janata Party on September 14, days after he announced the launch of his party, the Awaaz-e-Punjab. Photograph: Kind courtesy Navjot Kaur Sidhu/Facebook

Amulya Ganguli