In his heyday as a player, Navjot Singh Sidhu made his bat talk. In his later avatar as a commentator and judge on comedy shows, he regaled with his verbal volleys. But the cricketer-turned-politician was unusually silent during his two-and-a-half hour road show to drum up support for BJP president Rajnath Singh who is contesting the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat.
Sidhu did not utter a word in support of the BJP or any of its leaders during the 10-kilometre journey in a white gypsy. “I’ve not seen Sidhu so quiet,” said a BJP worker about the three-time Lok Sabha MP who had to give up his Amritsar seat to senior party leader Arun Jaitley, a three-time Rajya Sabha member.
The quietness about him was as surprising as his transformation from a ‘strokeless wonder’ in the early days of his cricket career to ‘sixer Sidhu’ who revelled in hitting the cricket ball out of the park. The incumbent MP from Amritsar also acknowledged quietly when BJP supporters climbed upon the bonnet of the gypsy to garland him.
Appearing to play well within ‘the crease’, the former Indian opening batsman first visited Naka Hindola Gurudwara to seek blessings. Rajnath Singh was already there and both had a chat. Hundreds of people, mostly women and children, rushed to Sidhu for autographs. As the crowd could not be controlled, Sidhu had to start the road show 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
With Monday being a holiday because of Ambedkar Jayanti, several women and children joined the road show to get a glimpse of the star. Besides, there were BJP supporters and volunteers wearing saffron caps along the route. All through, slogans were raised in support of the BJP: “Lal Qila Par Kamal Nishaan, Maang Rahaa Hai Hindustan.”
The road show passed through La Touche Road, Qaiserbagh, Nazirabad, Aminabad, Maulviganj, Raqabganj and Akbari Gate before culminating at Lajpat Nagar. The volunteers found it difficult to manage the traffic. Resultant bottlenecks caused inconvenience to the commuters.
Rajnath Singh, campaigning for party candidates elsewhere, has been relying on colourful leaders like Sidhu in Lucknow. His rivals include Rita Bahuguna Joshi of Congress, Abhishek Mishra of Samajwadi Party and Nakul Dubey of the BSP.