The Congress may be planning to field politician-comedian Navjot Singh Sidhu against the mighty Badals in the Punjab assembly polls — either from Lambi, where chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is the Akali candidate, or from Jalalabad against deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal — but the pitch will be equally tough for the former opening batsman of the Indian cricket team.
The Congress move to pit Sidhu — if he indeed decides to contest — against the leadership of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is being seen as an attempt to test his strength. Sidhu has been missing from the state’s political action for the past three years, ever since he completed his term as Amritsar MP in 2014. With campaigning already nearing a crescendo for the February 4 polls, the Congress gamble of moving him way from his home turf, Amritsar, would be a tough test for Sidhu, known for his anti-Badal credentials, oratory and appeal among the masses.
While CM Badal is a four-time MLA from Lambi, Sukhbir has represented Jalalabad twice in the assembly. Both Badals have filed their nomination papers. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the third player, have fielded Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann against the father-son duo, respectively. Both are drawing good crowds.
Mann is also a comedian, but Sidhu is considered suave in comparison.
Sidhu, who dumped the BJP, and is expected to join the Congress any day, had shown his firepower in the 2014 elections in Haryana where he bashed the Akali dispensation, criticising their style of functioning in Punjab, as BJP’s star campaigner then. He fell apart with the Badals on the issue of development in Amritsar parliamentary seat three years ago, leading to entry of Arun Jaitley (now Union finance minister) to unsuccessfully contest the Lok Sabha polls in his place.
There is buzz that Sidhu is seeking the deputy CM’s post if the Congress comes to power. If he bites the bait and beats one of the two Badals, he’d surely have his way, or maybe even more.