Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu is battling a difficult pitch yet again. This is similar to what was one of his toughest matches, in 1989 in Jamaica. He faced fast-bowling wizards like Malcolm Marshall and notched up a power-packed innings. It’s a performance he hopes to replicate in the political field now. News18.com caught up with him at the same park outside his home in Patiala where he would spend hours as a child practising batting. A maverick even as a cricketer who took on colleagues in his team like Mohammed Azharuddin because he was convinced he was right, Sidhu has not changed. In a party that he effectively heads in the state, Sidhu is the Lone Ranger. The sense is clear that many within the Congress have now begun to gang up against him and conveyed to the high command that Sidhu’s public utterances against his own government are harming the party ahead of the assembly polls.
“I am not in politics for any post,” Sidhu told News18.com. “I used to earn around Rs 50 lakh during my shows. Today, I earn less than Rs 50,000 a month. I can’t compromise when I have been given a task to look after the people of Punjab.”
Though Sidhu refused to be drawn into the question repeatedly raised by News18.com on whether he wants to be the chief minister, he made it clear that he doesn’t want to be a mere showpiece who will be asked to campaign. But it’s his equations with CM Charanjit Singh Channi that are gathering attention. At a time when the Punjab polls appear to be multi-pronged, the different voices within the Congress are being seen as a setback to the party’s chances.
When News18.com asked him about the Dalit card being played by the Congress through Channi, Sidhu said, “There are no cards. The only card that matters is the people’s card. Channi is my CM but I won’t be silent if we are not able to deliver on promises we made.”
The fact is that from being a no-show, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is now slowly emerging as a possible alternative in Punjab. And like AAP, Sidhu reached out to the women voters by announcing eight cooking gas cylinders a year for them and also Rs 2,000 per month for homemakers. But the Congress leader rubbished the AAP factor. “It’s very clear they are zero. You in the media hyped them the last time but what happened? This time too they will be exposed. And we have been fighting for women’s rights right from the time of Sonia Gandhi.”
The pressure on Sidhu is apparent. The key thing will be to see how many of his people get poll tickets. Sidhu though said, “People make MLAs and we can’t decide who people will vote for.”
Even as a cricketer, Sidhu was known for his flip-flops and sudden big hits. Now in politics too, it’s the suddenness of his moves, like the resignation recently, which surprises his party. But as he strongly pitches for breaking the drug nexus in the state and justice in sacrilege cases, even taking on his own government, Sidhu wonders why he is being attacked. “I never take anybody’s name. Why do they take mine? What do they get?”
Without taking state home minister Sukhjinder Randhawa’s name, who recently taunted Sidhu, the former cricketer made it clear he was here to stay and play the game.