The Sidhu syndrome: What does it take to stay on top?

Ahead of Punjab Assembly elections, the state Congress chief is scoring with his offence-is-the-best-defence tactic with a retaliating protest demonstration outside Delhi Chief Minister’s home.

The previous week, Kejriwal had mounted a protest in Mohali.

Navjot Singh Sidhu had been in a team that faced several tosses of the coin. He, however, in politics had to make choices both unalterably roaring and uncharacteristically silent without a smidge of guilt in hindsight. He has had debates following him loyally, within and outside of the 22 yards that has defined his life for a year short of two decades. However, his “Sidhuisms” have often led to his fallouts. Read more here.

Even when this story is being filed, Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has joined a dharna by guest teachers outside Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in demand of regularisation.

Now in Congress party, Sidhu has donned many hats over the years; right from a retired international cricketer, to a motivational speaker, to a television reality/game show personality. In the past 58 years, he has led his life as a person who is capable of both: a quietness that can make his party scramble for ways to appease him and an unrestrained flurry of actions that is capable of rattling governments across borders.

One man, many resignations

Sidhu’s foray into politics was 17 years ago. An overly active stint which has earned him the title of being a peacenik and counting Pakistan PM Imran Khan as one of his friends. His Rajya Sabha nomination, which reports suggested was to prevent him from joining the Aam Aadmi Party in 2016, ultimately ended in his resignation. 

A new political front, Awaaz-e-Punjab was his attempt to form an organisation that’d consist of like-minded leaders including Pargat Singh, the then Captain of the Indian Hockey Team. The organisation was formed with an agenda to work together against those dividing forces in Punjab, but Sidhu’s association did not last long.

Navjot Singh Sidhu: The political journey.

Being banned from electioneering for over 72 hours for seeking votes along religious lines in 2019, came his resignation from the Punjab Cabinet. Next year, Sidhu replaces Sunil Jakhar as the President of the PPCC. Another post which he wanted to resign from, only to have his resignation rejected by the Congress. 

A silver-tongued orator and controversies galore 

Sidhu thinks on his feet, knows when to add more fizz to the bubble and inherits the skills from his father, the late Sardar Bhagwant Singh, who was also a Congressman and served as the state’s top law officer. However, staying in the “muck” as Sidhu calls it, comes at the cost of drawing flak every now and then, on comments that often seem hurried and entitled. 

In 2019, commenting on the Pulwama Attacks, Sidhu said, “For a handful of people, can you blame the entire nation of Pakistan and can you blame an individual?”, which continues to draw criticism even today. The controversy then ended with Sidhu being sacked as the guest judge on the reality show.

Its difficult to gauge whether its his entitlement or the faithfulness to the party he represents, such that the rivalry remains afresh when he makes comments in the likes of “was the government uprooting trees or terrorists with an air strike” on the Balakot Air Strikes, one of India’s most successful anti-terrorism operations till date.

What lies in the next innings for Sidhu?

His recent flurry of tweets calling out Kejriwal is holding up a mirror to his position as a politician who desires to “save” Punjab is a strategic attempt to paint a rather saintly picture and amass votes in the upcoming elections. From campaigning to sloganeering, Sidhu is going to give it his all. 

From what seems like a Gandhian swish of a magic wand, Sidhu’s presence is the Congress clan, five months before the state goes into election is undeniable and non-negotiable. This cricketer-turned commentator-turned-politician has many tricks up his sleeve, which borrows from his tenacity off and on the field. 

Whatever might be the case, there is no way that Navjot Singh Sidhu is abandoning Punjab. His role as the PPCC is both befitting and appealing for the state given his long standing cricketing career and the hold that he possesses on the people of Punjab.

Sidhu’s attempts to have a stronger hold on the home ground are rife.

Sindhu is an asset, even though he might be jumping ships at the slightest mention of displeasure. It’s on the ‘Captain’ of the clan, the Gandhis at the moment, to ask him to bat in an order that gets the trophy home, even if its amidst opposition’s fuss and cry. 

For Navjot Singh Sidhu is his father’s son, and he refuses to walk home quietly.