It seems Amritsar can’t do without a Patiala leader in the Lok Sabha contest. If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made ex-cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu walk out of the field, Capt Amarinder Singh has walked in to play for the Congress.
Voted thrice to Parliament from Amritsar, Sidhu had on each occasion defeated a Congress heavyweight.
Former union minister RL Bhatia ( 2004), state cabinet minister Surinder Singla (2007, byelection), and powerful OP Soni (2009) were his victims. Like Sidhu, Singla was also an outsider (he is from Bathinda) but unlike Sidhu, he found no support in Amritsar.
Sidhu, once the favourite of the Akalis, was dropped unceremoniously after he accused Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal of scuttling his pet projects. The perturbed Badals forced the BJP to select Arun Jaitley in place of Sidhu to contest from Amritsar.
Sidhu’s all three victories have come against Hindu candidates. Amritsar has 65% Sikh voters, a majority of which voted for the turbaned celebrity. By fielding Amarinder, the Congress has played the same card, since the opponent is a Hindu, Arun Jaitley, and like Sidhu, Captain is also popular in Punjab.
Amarinder has condemned the treatment the Akalis have given to Sidhu. In canvassing, he will focus on how they punished an upright man for his speaking against the Badals.