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Navjot Singh Sidhu in Congress: Divination or political daring?

Navjot Singh Sidhu is sure to have an early rise in the Congress hierarchy. Amarinder Singh, the party’s de facto chief ministerial face in Punjab, has already declared the ongoing battle as his last.

opinion Updated: Jan 16, 2017 23:14 IST
Navjot Sidhu in Congress,Navjot Singh Sidhu,Sidhu joins Congress
Navjot Singh Sidhu joined Congress party during his press confrence at AICC HQ in New Delhi on Monday.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

Barely had Navjot Singh Sidhu finished talking on Monday at the Congress headquarters here that a close friend of the Badals --- Parkash Singh and Sukhbir --was on the line with me. I’ve known him as an astute observer of Punjab politics.

“So he has answered your question,” he jocularly said, referring to my poser in a recent article whether Sidhu will be — politically, that is --- his father’s son? The former cricketer’s father was a Congress person, holding party positions and serving as the state’s advocate general.

But how would Sidhu’s entry in the Congress impact elections? To that, the voluble observer said Sidhu, who lost no time in opening combat against the Badals, could upset the Akali applecart in the Majha belt where they did well in 2012. He could bring his persona to bear upon 11 seats in Amritsar from where he was thrice elected to Parliament.

Sidhu’s frontal attack on the senior Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh’s decision to contest against the chief minister from Lambi in Muktsar were aimed at seizing the initiative from AAP. The Congress needed the kind of bombshell announcements it has made to negate Arvind Kejriwal’s claim to being a stronger challenger to the “unpopular” Badals.

So what are the options for the Akalis? They’d need more than ever the support of deras with huge followings, said the Badals’ friend. He listed out in that context the Radha Somais of Beas, the Ramdasiyas of Jalandhar and Sirsa’s Baba Ram Rahim who has influence in Malwa’s Bathinda, Mansa, Sangrur and Barnala districts.

But isn’t anti-incumbency restricted to the Badals, as opposed to the the Akali Dal, Sidhu was careful not to attack? “Yes, resentment against them is palpable. People are speaking up after imposition of the model code as the Badals can’t use police to oppress dissent,” said a Barnala-based revenue official.

Talking of babas and deras, let it be told that Sidhu is an ardent devotee of a Delhi-based seer who, before attaining samadhi in 2007, had told him that he’d be CM one day.

Read | When Twitter treated Navjot Sidhu’s joining Congress like a Comedy Nights episode

Sidhu’s wife, Dr Navjot Kaur, was evidently surprised when I asked her about it. “How do you know?” she asked, disclosing on an impulse that at his Bhatti Mines ashram, “Guru ji” would introduce Sidhu and Mehbooba Mufti as future CMs of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

For his part, Sidhu referred to “Guru ji” while discussing the elections he fought from Amritsar. But he betrayed no ambition, saying he’d work under whoever the Congress high command chose as leader.

“I’ve no personal ambition… I’m here to fight for Punjab’s redemption. The Badals turned the annadataa state to a bhikhaari with a debt of Rs 2 lakh crore.”

Even so, Sidhu is sure to have an early rise in the Congress hierarchy. Amarinder, the party’s de facto chief ministerial face, has already declared the ongoing battle as his last. As a charismatic Jat Sikh, the former-cricketer has the curriculum vitae to step into his shoes.

So Guru ji’s divination looks plausible now. That perhaps helped Sidhu make up his mind to cross over to the Congress.

Read | HT Analysis: The importance of being Navjot Singh Sidhu

First Published: Jan 16, 2017 18:51 IST