Lok Sabha polls: Sidhu’s googly for Punjab Congress, joins IPL as commentator - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha polls: Sidhu’s googly for Punjab Congress, joins IPL as commentator

Mar 19, 2024 02:59 PM IST

This rules out his contesting LS elections as the party was planning to field him from Patiala in a likely contest against outgoing MP Preneet Kaur, who quit the Congress to join the BJP last week.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has bowled another googly, leaving the Congress in a tizzy as he announced his joining the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 season as a commentator.

Cicketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has bowled another googly, leaving the Congress in a tizzy as he announced his joining the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 season as a commentator. (ANI file photo)
Cicketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has bowled another googly, leaving the Congress in a tizzy as he announced his joining the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 season as a commentator. (ANI file photo)

Before he took the political plunge two decades ago, Sidhu, 60, who has a million followers on X, was a popular cricket commentator known for his one-liners and witty remarks.

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Announcing his return to the IPL on Tuesday, Sidhu, a right-handed batter who played 15 years for India from 1983-98, retweeted a post from Star Sports, which on their official account said, “A wise man once said, ‘Hope is the biggest tope’. And this wise man, the great @sherryontopp himself, has joined our star cast! Don’t miss his incredible commentary (and gajab one-liners) in #IPLOnStar!”

The IPL season starts from March 22 and ends on May 29, which means Sidhu will be busy in the commentary box for 74 matches that 10 IPL teams are playing.

The Lok Sabha election process in Punjab starts from May 7 with polling to be held in the last phase on June 1. This rules out his contesting the election as the Congress was reportedly planning to field him from Patiala in a likely contest against outgoing MP Preneet Kaur, who quit the party to join the BJP last week.

Chequered political innings

Sidhu had been battling the Punjab Congress leadership ever since he was removed as president of the state unit after the defeat in the 2022 assembly elections. Instead of participating in the party’s programmes, he had been holding parallel shows of strength in the form of rallies. While he advocated a tie-up with the Aam Aadmi Party in the state, his party colleagues were opposed to the idea.

Besides cricket, Sidhu had been shooting for TV comedy show that he had to quit after becoming a minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh government in 2017.

Sidhu had joined the BJP in 2004 and represented Amritsar twice as member of Parliament. He was elected as a Rajya Sabha member for one term. He was the BJP’s star campaigner till 2013 and even coined the moniker Pappu for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. However, when the BJP chose Arun Jaitley to contest from Amritsar in the 2014 parliamentary elections, a miffed Sidhu didn’t campaign for the party.

He joined the Congress in 2016 and became a minister in the Capt Amarinder Singh cabinet the next year. He remained a thorn in the side for Capt Amarinder and enjoyed the confidence of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. Eventually, he was picked to lead the Congress into the 2022 assembly elections and was instrumental in dethroning Captain Amarinder Singh and his eventual exit from the party. However, Sidhu was upset with the high command as he was neither made the CM after Capt Amarinder’s removal nor was he named the CM candidate in the 2022 elections.

He not only lost the Amritsar East seat in the assembly polls but also spent a year in jail from May 16, 2022, to April 1, 2023, after the Supreme Court held him guilty of culpable homicide case in a 1988 road rage case.

Once out of jail, Sidhu remained at loggerheads with state unit leaders Amarinder Singh Raja Warring and Partap Singh Bajwa and steered clear of functions organised by the Congress. Instead he held parallel shows, targeting the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party government. The Congress suspended some of his supporters for organising the rallies.

Potential overlooked?

Though Sidhu was not available for comment, a supporter, requesting anonymity, said: “The Congress was not using his potential or giving him due recognition. Besides, he has to earn for himself. He is not corrupt like other politicians and has to work for a livelihood.”

His detractors in the Congress, however, accuse him of ditching the party. “Once again, when he was expected to canvass, he has ditched the party for personal gains. He is unpredictable. You can’t rely on him; this is what we had told the high command and he has proven us right,” said a Congress leader, who did not wish to be named.

Some took to social media to take a dig at Sidhu. Capt Amarinder Singh’s supporter and BJP leader Pritpal Singh Baliwal posted on X: “Just heard Navjot Sidhu’s rejoining IPL. Retirement from politics! Good luck @sherryontop. Will watch your shows during the busy schedule of the election.”

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