Blow hot, blow cold: Sidhuisms of a differrent kind (News Analysis)

Chandigarh, April 14 (IANS) Navjot Singh Sidhu had a chequered stint with the Indian cricket team. Either he was a plodder or ended up with the ‘Sixer Sidhu’ sobriquet, given the number of sixes he started hitting late in his career. Once, he even walked out of the team during a series in England. In his political career too, as the MP representing Amritsar in the Lok Sabha, Sidhu has remained close to controversy.

The latest salvo, though, has come not from the chirpy Sidhu but from his better half, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who made no bones about how her husband was feeling slighted by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Navjot Sidhu, as a public figure, not as a husband, leaves family for 5 years to serve his constituency; leaves contracts of at least 10 cr per year for 10 years; runs from pillar to post for major projects for Amritsar, all scuttled by union and state governments, why? How can you let an honest leader survive, one who does not support criminals, does not become party to commission system? so, finally you pair up to push him aside; make him feel suffocated in the systema you don’t let him run the show even in Amritsar; why? Because he will not join opposition leaders to defeat their own men, will not be a party to engulf people’s properties? Evil wins over; still kaliyug; Amritsar loses a real leader. I salute him because truth always wins,” Navjot Kaur Sidhu wrote on her Facebook account this week to tell the world why Sidhu had been missing from the Amritsar constituency for the past few months.

She told media: “I have every right to express myself. There are people in the party who are responsible for all this. He won thrice from Amritsar because the people had faith in him. He did not deserve the treatment he got.”

After this created a fresh controversy for the BJP, since Sidhu is one of the star campaigners of the party for elections from Bihar to Gujarat, party president Rajnath Singh is said to have intervened and assured Sidhu that his interests would be taken care of.

Sidhu himself, who is actively involved as a commentator in the current edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), deliberately did not say a word about his latest controversy. His wife, a doctor who is a legislator from the Amritsar-east seat and a chief parliamentary secretary (one rank below a minister) in the Punjab government, did the talking and writing for him.

The outburst came just days after Sidhu figured nowhere in the new BJP national team announced by Rajnath Singh last month.

Having been first elected from the Amritsar seat for the first time in 2004, Sidhu trounced seven-time Amritsar MP Raghunandan Lal Bhatia by nearly 110,000 votes. After he faced conviction and a suspended three-year jail term in 2006 in a road rage case which had left a man dead in Patiala, Sidhu, who was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, resigned from the seat and won in the 2007 by-election by nearly 80,000 votes.

However, in the May 2009 general election, Sidhu’s appeal with the electorate eroded sharply as he managed to win for a third time by only some 7,500 votes.

Sidhu has had run-ins with Punjab’s powerful cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia, the brother-in-law of all-powerful Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Controversy has always followed Sidhu. Last year, he complained to the Amritsar police that a Facebook page opened in his name was a fake and he had nothing to do with it.

In Nov 2009, Sidhu had moved a privilege motion with the Lok Sabha secretariat against Amritsar’s deputy commissioner saying that the official was “causing impediments in the performance of my duties as an elected representative”. He accused the DC of “deliberately ignoring and humiliating him by excluding him from important events in the Amritsar constituency”, including not being invited during the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Amritsar.

In Oct 2009, Sidhu returned to his constituency after remaining away from it for nearly three months. Sidhu was annoyed that R.S. Chhina, a local BJP leader who was his detractor in the party, was appointed the Amritsar Improvement Trust chief. He even submitted his resignation from the party.

Sidhu’s absence had given the opportunity to Congress leaders here to put up “missing” posters for Sidhu at prominent places in the city. One Congress leader even filed a complaint with the police seeking registration of a “missing Person” case against him.

Sidhu was in the firing line of Congress leaders in April 2009 when he went to file his nomination papers with pomp and show – mounted atop an elephant. Other leaders too came on an elephant and horse-back.

Even senior Punjab BJP leaders say that Sidhu’s latest bout of annoyance is a passing phase. After blowing hot, Sidhu will surely blow cold too, they say.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])

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