Many who know Navjot Singh Sidhu call him “unpredictable”. Even during his cricketing years, one could not judge which way the opening batsman would swing his bat. But that was cricket.
In the humdrum of Punjab politics, Sidhu’s bouncers are leaving even hardcore politicians stumped. So much so that other than the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, no other party - the BJP that he left and his wife Navjot Kaur hasn’t, Congress which he doesn’t mind sans Captain Amarinder Singh and the Aam Aadmi Party that he courted to no effect - can guess whether the cricketer-turned-politician is batting for or against them.
After Sidhu resigned as the Bharatiya Janata Party MP, he saw a ready pitch waiting for him in the AAP, which needed a Sikh chief ministerial face. But after Arvind Kejriwal read the ‘one family, one ticket’ rulebook to him, Sidhu made a reverse sweep. He floated a fourth front to align non-SAD, non-Congress and non-AAP forces with a clear Punjab-centric focus.
But his star appeal didn’t translate into political equity in Punjab neither did Sidhu - busy shooting his television show in Mumbai - care enough.
In the fortnight after he launched Awaz-e-Punjab, the troika of MLAs in his forum - Pargat Singh and Bains brothers of Ludhiana - were seen reaching out to “natural allies” such as rebel AAP leader Sucha Singh Chottepur and suspended AAP MP Dharamvira Gandhi.
But his front failed to gather steam with no breakaway leader joining them or anyone breaking away from either the SAD, BJP, Congress or AAP. Waiting for Sidhu’s move and disillusioned by it, Chhotepur will be floating his ‘Aam Lok Party’ soon. He has left it to Sidhu to support it or leave it. No workers from other parties too have joined the fourth front.
So far, Sidhu’s politics has been reactionary. Dubbed as the BJP’s B-team by Congress and AAP, he quit the party. On reports that a fourth front would split anti-Badal and anti-Congress vote, he wants the contest to stay triangular.
Between Mr and Mrs Sidhu too, the line and length of the spin change. Even a former Olympian like Pargat, say his close aides, is at his wit’s end and thinking of calling it quits and taking up hockey coaching. As for Bains brothers, all they can do in the company of former sportsmen is to be a sport.
But questions are also being raised if Sidhu can pull crowds in Punjab. He has been missing from the state’s political scene completely since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and had prompted “missing” posters even as the Amritsar MP. The last time he campaigned was for the BJP in the Delhi elections against Kejriwal, who had the last laugh. Even now, it is only the AAP which is smiling at Sidhu’s recent googly.
Now used to the comfort of being a television commentator and entertainer, Sidhu does not seem to be cut out for rough and tumble of politics. So he is doing what he does the best - commenting on Punjab politics.