A master batsman during his cricketing days, Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu knows when to hit a ball for a six. His recent outbursts against the Badals for "scuttling" development of his constituency and sidelining him and his CPS wife Navjot Kaur seem to be aimed at getting an "exit route" from contesting the Amritsar seat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
During his meetings with Punjab BJP in-charge Shanta Kumar and party president Rajnath Singh in New Delhi this week, Sidhu is learnt to have bargained for being nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
According to highly-placed sources in the BJP, the MP during his meetings listed development projects which did not see the light of day owing to "apathy" of the Akali government and cited instances of being "sidelined" to eventually bat for getting into the upper house of Parliament.
A senior BJP leader said Sidhu is not keen on contesting the Lok Sabha polls owing to his professional engagements -- he is a cricket commentator and part of a popular comedy show. "He has also sensed the strong anti-incumbency wave against him for which he is blaming the ruling party.
Seeing that the prospects do not look good, Sidhu wants to opt out of contesting the polls or he would not only have to win an election but also ensure development of his constituency and meet social and other engagements. As a Rajya Sabha MP, he would be able to devote all his time to his professional commitments and serve as the party's star campaigner or perform other duties assigned to him," the leader said.
Such an eventuality could see a possible swap. The party may field Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley from Amritsar while Sidhu enters the upper house.
Jaitley, whose maternal grandparents hail from Amritsar, has also been the party in-charge for Punjab. There are other contenders too, including BJP vice-president Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna. Whoever it fields, the saffron party seems in no mood to concede its traditional stronghold to SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law, revenue minister Bikram Majithia, who claims to have "bestowed" the last win on Sidhu and may clinch the seat for their own party candidate.
Meanwhile, Sidhu's verbal attacks on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy CM son have resulted in a boycott of the MP by the two, who have told the BJP to rein in his diatribes. Some BJP leaders in Amritsar close to Majithia and Badals have also been blaming him for "playing the same shots every poll season".
"He has chosen to blame the ruling party for his long absence from his constituency but even when invited, Sidhu always excused himself owing to his engagements. The only part of Amritsar where he has spent his MPLAD funds in the last few years is in the Amritsar East constituency of his MLA wife, which got over Rs 5 crore. He made poll promises of making toilets in villages and generating employment for two lakh youths, which he did not keep.
He wanted to run away from Amritsar even during the 2009 elections but party leader LK Advani told him to stay put. This time round, he is raising the same bogey to wriggle out of contesting an election where he may have to explain his absence to his voters and field bouncers from the opposition such as his poor attendance in Lok Sabha, use of MPLAD funds and why is he blaming the state government for 'scuttling' projects, an excuse even the opposition Congress MLAs do not like to give," one of his detractors within the party said.