Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu has been given charge by the Congress to address rallies in segments where the ‘swing’ in votes will decide the winner. In the last lap of the campaign, he is covering four segments a day to meet the target of 40 rallies. In an interview to Sukhdeep Kaur, Sidhu says the Congress is peaking at the right time in Punjab. We bring you Sidhu unplugged, with all the punchlines!
HT: You have entered the poll fray in Punjab in the last lap. It seems you are playing T20 in politics?
Sidhu: I have been in politics for over 12 years now. It is not T20 but Test cricket. Till the time I was an MP, I gave full-time to Amritsar. Later, my wife, Navjot Kaur, held the fort. We have won four elections and this is our fifth. Would we win if we had not worked and were not loved by the people?
Your rallies are crowd-pullers. But is it not too late to cover the state when elections are just 10 days away?
I have been given the charge to cover the B-category seats where a swing in votes will decide the winner. I have already covered 10-12 seats in Majha and Doaba. I plan to cover 30-35 more. And as for the reach, my press conference at Chandigarh got 5-lakh views. People are seeing and hearing me online. The Congress is peaking at the right time. In Majha alone, we are winning 21 of the 25 seats.
In your speeches you are targeting business interests of Badals; Amarinder and Kejriwal are threatening to send them to jail...
I have an agenda for Punjab to improve its condition. The law will take its own course against the Badals. Kejriwal used to thunder before the Delhi elections that he would send Sheila Dixit to jail, but that didn’t happen. The Badals have plundered the state. From 50 buses, they have now 650. From two companies, they now have eight. There is no anti-incumbency against Badals. It is sheer hatred.
Why are you contesting from your wife’s seat in Amritsar? Why not Lambi or Jalalabad?
It was her decision that I should contest her seat. She said I have a pan-Punjab appeal. I have no lust for money. I have plenty. I want Punjab’s resurrection. The image of the ugly politician needs to be changed. When I came to Amritsar, I left my father’s palatial house in Patiala. I could not meet my wife for two-and-half years. She went into depression. I gave everything for Amritsar and it has given me everything I have. It made me a political entity.
How much do you earn per year?
I earn Rs 15-20 crore per year and all this is accounted for. When I needed to build my house in Amritsar, I went to Big Boss. I did television shows. I get Rs 15 lakh for my motivational speeches. But the riches do not earn you a sound sleep. I am only accountable to my conscience.
Kejriwal says you will be party’s CM face. Have you accepted Amarinder as your captain?
Kejriwal is an insecure person. He is trying to break Sidhu-Captain partnership. Ask Kejriwal, did he not ask me not to contest Punjab polls? Didn’t he offer me the deputy CM’s post when he got to know I am joining Congress? Didn’t his three emissaries ring me up saying let Kejriwal be Punjab CM for two years and then he will move to Gujarat. Kejriwal is a dictator in the garb of democracy.
Do you think Rahul will announce Amarinder as the party’s CM face during his Punjab campaign?
I think he will. It is for the party high command to decide who will be the CM. He is our pradhan (leader). When Amarinder called me a son, I told him I will be his ‘dhaal’ (shield). We will together score runs in tonnes.
Sukhbir has given Amritsar a facelift. Have you seen the heritage walk near the Golden Temple?
First look at the 15-foot dumps of garbage all around it. The stone they used for the heritage walk is already paling. He just does politics of one-upmanship. He knew if I contested (Lok Sabha) from Amritsar, being a four-time MP, I will be entitled to a berth in the Union cabinet. So he got my guru (Arun Jaitley) to contest from here as he wanted his wife Harsimrat Badal to be a Union minister. That’s why I say in my rallies “sumri mein gumri”.
Many comedians are in the poll fray. Your speeches are replete with humour. Does comedy sell in Punjab?
I am not a comedian like the others (AAP’s Bhagwant Mann and Gurpreet Ghuggi). I was a judge of comedians. There is a difference between wit and comedy. Wit is like caviar on a toast, while comedy is like marmalade on toast.